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Will Washington State Be Next to Increase its Gas Tax?

With Pa.'s Republican governor signing a dramatic gas tax increase bill on Monday, will Washington state follow in their footsteps in forging a bipartisan deal between the Republicans who control the Senate and the Democrat majority in the House?
November 26, 2013, 10am PST | Irvin Dawid
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This Seattle Times editorial urges them to do so - which will provide $12.3 billion in transportation funds resulting in part from "rais(ing) the (gas) tax by 11.5 cents to 49 cents per gallon. That represents significant movement for the tax-averse GOP caucus, and acknowledgment that the business community — including Boeing, most prominently — is willing to absorb higher costs in exchange for a more functional transportation system."

Back in July, we pointed to Washington and Pennsylvania as examples where, at the last minute, bipartisan deals collapsed, resulting in failures to provide new transportation funds to the dismay of governors of both states - a Democrat and a Republican, respectively.

Politics stymied yet another attempt by a state legislature to increase its gas tax, just as it did in Pennsylvania, both on the final day of their legislative sessions, June 30. Eric Florip writes that "the Washington Senate delivered the fatal blow to the beleaguered [Columbia River Crossing (CRC)] project [that included a 10.5-cent gas tax increase].

The editorial praises the Senate proposal to raise the gas tax, and recommends it over the House bill approved on June 27. 

The Majority Coalition’s proposal, crafted after a statewide “listening tour” and months of negotiations with Democratic leaders, offers the most coherent approach. It focuses on finishing already started projects, including the west side landing of the Highway 520 floating bridge, widening of Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass...

There are far-reaching consequences to not passing an infrastructure-improvement package, the editors warn, pointing to the fact that Boeing is considering 15 sites nationwide to manufacture its 777x. It can no longer take one of the state's largest private employers for granted.

And a transportation package would be an extra rose in Washington’s courtship of Boeing. The company’s stated desire for a transportation upgrade is a reason to pass a billion-dollar package, but it wouldn’t hurt if Washington is serious about outbidding competing states for the 777X production line.

However, Erik Smith of Washington State Wire warns of trouble due to "Gov. Jay Inslee's new effort to promote cap-and-trade legislation and other measures designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Because the environmental legislation appears likely to boost the cost of fuel, some business interests are calling it a dealbreaker." Inslee's signing of the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy (PDF) on Oct. 28 (discussed here) may have prompted his pushing the cap and trade legislation. 

The Pa. transportation bill-signing on Monday is captured here by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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Published on Saturday, November 16, 2013 in The Seattle Times
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