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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 Senate Majority Unveils New Gas Tax Package, Votes Lacking

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

Members of the mostly Republican majority in the Washington Senate say they want to jumpstart talks on a gas tax package to fund roads and transit. Previous negotiations stalled out in December.

They unveiled a revised funding proposal Thursday, but also acknowledged they don’t have the votes to pass it.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and Governor Jay Inslee say the time is right to pass a gas tax increase of 10 cents to 11.5 cents per gallon.

The latest proposal from Republican Curtis King, co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, makes some concessions to Democrats – like more funding for transit. But King also insists on a list of what he calls transportation reforms.

One example: Currently the sales tax paid on any transportation projects goes into the state’s general fund. King says this money should be reinvested in transportation.

“We must have these reforms," he says. "It’s the only way that we can sell this package to the public.”

King needs 25 votes to pass his gas tax package out of the Senate. He says he has 13 votes at this point.

Washington House Democrats say they already passed their version last year. House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn it doesn’t make sense to resume negotiations until the Senate has enough votes to pass its own package.

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."