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Washington Senators Propose 11.7 Cent Gas Tax Increase For Roads

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Senate Transportation Chair Curtis King and a bipartisan group of senators introduce a proposed 11.7 cent gas tax increase to help fund a $15 billion transportation package

A bipartisan group of Washington state senators is backing an 11.7 cent gas tax increase over three years.

The proposal was rolled out late Thursday at the Capitol. The higher gas tax would help fund a multi-billion dollar roads and transit package.

It’s a 16-year, $15 billion proposal, and would fund six mega projects in Washington and 58 regional projects. It would also pump nearly $1.5 billion into preservation and maintenance of existing roads and bridges. 

The funding package also includes several so-called transportation reforms pushed by Republicans. One would direct the sales tax paid on transportation projects back into transportation, instead of into the state general fund.

That’s a tough sell for Democrats like Senator Marko Liias, who called the proposed package a “first step.”

"The reason I’m here to today is because I think it’s time to launch a conversation with the people of Washington and show them the work that we’ve done and ask for their input on the elements of the proposal that’s before us," Liias said.

Republican Curtis King, who chairs the Senate Transportation committee, said transportation needs are growing in the state.

"We have to make sure that when we load a truck in Yakima and it goes across Snoqualmie Pass, that they’re going to get to the west side of the state and be able to deliver their produce," King said.

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee called the proposal a "strong start," but he questioned a provision in the package that would yank funding for transit if the state were to adopt a low carbon fuel standard. Inslee has instructed his Department of Ecology to start drafting a rule to adopt requirements for cleaner fuel in Washington.

It’s been a decade since Washington lawmakers last approved a major transportation funding measure.

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."