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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Key Players Debate Need For Gas Tax in Washington Special Session

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File photo of the Washington state Capitol Building.

Washington lawmakers convene in special session Thursday in an effort to win production of the next Boeing 777.

But there is already a dispute over whether one of the must-haves is a gas tax package for transportation improvements. Governor Jay Inslee insists the time is now. But some lawmakers say road funding can wait.

Governor Inslee has outlined a special session agenda that includes a roughly ten-cent gas tax hike to maintain the roads we’ve got and build new ones. And he says it’s a key priority for Boeing too.

“We need a transportation package in order to secure this aerospace future for the state of Washington,” the governor said Monday.

In a follow up interview, Inslee says a gas tax package can’t wait until next year. But Senator Rodney Tom, a Democrat in charge of a largely Republican coalition caucus, doesn’t sense the same urgency from Boeing.

“You know transportation is important but they understand due to the complexities of it, that it might have to be a second phase element to this so that’s the assumption that we’re working under.”

So far Boeing’s not commenting. Either way, the governor’s timeline of a week to hammer out a bipartisan roads-and-transit funding deal will be, in the words of one top House Democrat, “an uphill battle.”

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."