State senators unveil $15B transportation package that would raise gas taxes 11.7 cents over 3 years

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Senate majority leaders on Thursday unveiled a $15 billion transportation revenue package that includes an incremental gas tax increase of 11.7 cents over three years.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, introduced the proposal Thursday and said he was confident that the measure would pass with bipartisan support. He was joined by Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, and Democratic Sens. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, and Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens.

The Senators said that the package would include $8 billion in new construction spending, paid for with an 11.7-cent gas tax implemented in stages over three years, fee increases, sales tax and a percentage of the Environment Legacy Stewardship Account.

In addition to the gas-tax increase over the next three years, the plan also seeks to redirect sales-tax money from transportation projects to a transportation fund instead of the state's general fund.

The Senate proposal puts more than $8 billion toward road projects that include the North-South Freeway in Spokane and I-90 on Snoqualmie Pass, and puts money toward transit and local rail projects, as well as bike paths and pedestrian walkways.

Gov. Jay Inslee said he welcomed the proposal and called it "a strong start," but added that he does have some questions about it, "particularly about some of the conditions attached to the bill."

"We need to look carefully at the total amount of sales tax proposed to be moved from the operating budget, changes to worker wages, and the connection to a clean fuel standard. Under the Senate plan, if Washington adopts a low carbon fuel standard to reduce emissions, we lose transit funding," he said.

"We need to see how much support the bill has in the Senate, and then we can all work on the next phase of negotiations. I remain optimistic that we can work together and get a package across the finish line this session.”