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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."

Washington Gas Tax Alliance Hits Rough Spot

Colin Fogarty
Northwest News Network files
File photo of the Washington State Capitol Building

Washington’s mostly Republican Senate majority will formally unveil a proposed 12-year, $12 billion transportation funding package Thursday.

The move comes as environmentalists warn the details of the plan threaten to doom ongoing negotiations for a gas tax package.

For the last decade, transportation funding in Washington has had the support of an unlikely alliance of business, labor and environmental groups. Now the Keep Washington Rolling coalition is a key driver for a multi-billion dollar gas tax package.

But that fragile unity is in jeopardy over proposals by the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus. They would tap the state’s toxics clean-up fund to pay for storm water mitigation. And spend much less on transit and bicycle-pedestrian programs than House Democrats.

A leading environmental lobbyist says those ideas head the state in the wrong direction.

“Our fear is unless there’s major headway in funding these very popular programs that the voters and citizens of Washington want to see investments in, the negotiations will fail," says Clifford Traisman. "That is our fear.”

By contrast, the business side of Keep Washington Rolling praises the Senate proposal because it would put more money into completing mega projects and preservation and maintenance of existing roads.

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."