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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 Debate Breeds Partisan Mistrust In Legislature

Kristen Steele

The debate over a gas tax hike has revved up again in the Washington legislature.

A key Senate Republican formally introduced legislation Monday to raise the gas tax by eleven-and-a-half cents to fund road projects.

The latest plan from Republican state Senator Curtis King still spends about $12 bill to maintain and preserve existing roads, build and complete new projects and pay for other transportation priorities. But it includes some concessions to Democrats, including more money for transit.

Still Senate Democrats don’t like the details. They also question if King has enough Republican votes to pass a gas tax hike even with Democrats on board.

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson says minority Democrats don’t want to take that vote alone.

“If the Democrats are going to take a heavy lift on gas tax we want to know that the majority is going to do that as well.”

King responds that he can deliver 14 votes if Democrats will lend the rest.

Time is running out for lawmakers to bridge this partisan distrust, not to mention their policy differences. The Washington legislature is scheduled to adjourn in less than two weeks.

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."