Inslee proposes 'carbon pollution charge' on businesses to help finance $12 billion transportation plan

BELLEVUE -- Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday unveiled a $12 billion transportation plan, saying crumbling roads and bridges in Washington state need immediate attention.

“If we don’t invest in transportation, our state is going to erode,” Inslee said. “Our economy is going to decline.”

The governor’s plan will fix deteriorating bridges, pay to complete the new SR 520 Bridge, and work to make commutes smoother on Interstate 405 and on I-5 around Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a driver sore spot for years.

The plan will raise $12 billion over the next 12 years and will be funded through through bonds, tolls and other fees, and what is likely to be a controversial new tax -- leveling a carbon charge on the state’s major polluters that Inslee estimated would bring in $400 million a year.

“It’s a carbon pollution charge,” said Inslee. “A charge on pollution that today is making our air and water less healthy.”

Bob Pishue, with the Washington Policy Center, says, despite not increasing the gas tax on drivers to pay for the plan, taxpayers will still part with more of their money.

“Most of those taxes are usually pushed on to the consumers,” said Pishue. “So it might not hit a household budget on your gas bill but it could hit your household budget in another way.”

State Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, co-chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he was glad the governor is focusing on transportation issues in the state, but also pointed out that there are not a lot of details in the plan.

He’s not sure the carbon tax will get a lot of support in Olympia, where he says there may be more support for increasing the state gas tax because it requires users to pay for the upgrades on roads and bridges.