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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."

On Second Try, Washington House Passes Gas Tax Measure

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The Washington House has approved a $10 billion transportation package that includes a 10.5 cent gas tax increase over two years. The vote Thursday follows a failed effort Wednesday to approve the same measure.

It was a rare do-over vote on the House floor. And State Representative Marko Liias, a Democrat, acknowledged as much. He said, “As a House we rarely reconsider our decisions. You know when we make a decision, it’s pretty final. But this is a singular moment. This is a time when inaction is a loss of competitiveness.”

So, House Democrats made another run at it and this time the gas tax measure gained two additional votes – enough to pass.

It came over the objections of Republicans like Matt Shea of the Spokane Valley. He said the higher gas tax would be an invitation to his constituents to move to Idaho. “People are having to make hard choices on health care, on food, on carpooling to work. This bill is going to drive folks out of Washington state, not bring them here.”

The gas tax proposal now goes to the Senate where its fate is far from certain. It is a top priority of Democratic Governor Jay Inslee.