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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 Passes 11.7 Cent Gas Tax Hike; Heads To House

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Kristen Steele
/
Flickr
The Washington Senate approved an 11.7-cent gas tax increase phased in over three years.

The Republican-led Washington Senate Monday approved a nearly 12-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase phased in over three years.

Washington’s current gas tax is 37.5 cents per gallon. The gas tax increase passed on a mostly Republican vote of 27 to 22. The vote paves the way for a 16-year, $15 billion transportation package.

“This will be the first time in 23 sessions that I have supported a package like this,” Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler said.

He touted several Republican reforms included in the gas tax package. But that’s what cost it several Democratic votes like Senator Pramila Jayapal’s. She denounced a provision that critics have called a “poison pill.”

“Tying the hands of any governor to take action on carbon emissions reduction,” she said.

A few Democrats like Senator Mark Mullet joined in the “yes” vote. He said simply, “Traffic sucks.”

The bill now goes to the House. It’s been a decade since the last transportation package moved out of the Washington legislature.

The Idaho Legislature is also considering whether to raise its gas tax to pay for more highway and bridge maintenance. Republican members of the Idaho House have floated a plan to hike the state gas tax by 8 cents per gallon and diesel by 12 cents. Idaho’s gas tax hasn’t budged since 1996, when it was set at 25 cents per gallon.

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."