House reverses course, OKs gas tax

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OLYMPIA — A day after it was voted down, a $10 billion transportation revenue package that includes a 101//2-cent increase in the gas tax was approved Thursday by the state House.

The measure passed on a 51-41 vote and now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to face resistance.

On Wednesday, the measure had failed to receive the required 50 votes, a rare bill failure in the Democratic-controlled House.

Three Democrats who had voted against the measure Wednesday now voted for it.

Marko Liias of Mukilteo warned his colleagues that other states, like South Carolina, could benefit if Washington state failed to take action to improve its transportation infrastructure.

“Inaction is a loss of competitiveness,” he said.

Under the measure, the state gas tax would increase by 6 cents per gallon on Aug. 1, with the remainder of the increase taking effect July 1, 2014.

The package includes $3.2 billion for several state road projects, including State Route 167, Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass and a replacement bridge over the Columbia River into Oregon. It also includes more than $1 billion for maintenance of highways and bridges.

The effort to replace the bridge connecting Portland with Vancouver, Wash., has been a key sticking point in the predominantly Republican Senate, where several members are opposed to the Columbia River Crossing proposal in its current form. Opponents say the proposed bridge is too low and should not include light rail transit, and they are concerned about costs.

Blake said he changed his vote because he wanted to keep the bill alive in hopes that he can get some projects in his district funded. He said he wanted the package sent over to the Senate “so we could discuss a final bill.

“I think that’s important, that we bounce something over and see if they’ll meet us,” he said.

Republicans who spoke against the measure during debate said that nothing had changed over the past day to allay their concerns over the financing of the package, or lack of reforms they had wanted to see to address project costs.

“The public continues to say no to this package. I continue to say no to this package. And this House chamber should continue to say no to this package,” said Rep. Ed Orcutt.

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