Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As I write this column, it is June 26 and state lawmakers are close to a final agreement on the operating budget. This is the main issue that has pushed the Legislature into a second special session – an outcome that is disappointing to all of us.
While a handful of reform bills and the capital budget also hang in the balance, another issue drawing a lot of attention in Olympia is a proposed transportation revenue package. House Democrats, with support from Governor Inslee, want to raise the state gas tax by 10.5 cents – 6 cents in August of this year and 4.5 cents in July 2014 – to pay for new transportation-related projects around the state. The state already collects 37.5 cents per gallon – one of the highest amounts in the nation. In addition to the state gas tax, they would increase weight fees for commercial and passenger vehicles, increase other fees, and use bond proceeds to generate just under $10 billion over 12 years.
What would Washingtonians get in return for higher prices at the pump and increased fees? I don’t have enough room in this piece to share everything, but below you can find some of the big-ticket items in addition to US 2. Please note these projects and dollars amounts are subject to change.
- $1.3 billion for the SR 167/SR 509 Puget Sound Gateway for new alignment and new lanes.
- $1.3 billion for maintenance, operations, and bridge and road preservation.
- $835 million for various bicycle, pedestrian and transit projects.
- $675 million for I-405/SR 167 widening and construction of a new flyover connector.
- $450 million for the Columbia River Crossing project (plus $650 million in toll revenue bonds).
- $420 million for the US-395/North Spokane Corridor.
- $397 million to advance the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal and Colman Dock in Seattle.
- $200 million for SR 520 toward the west end.
- $175 million for JBLM/I-5 corridor improvements.
- $160 million for fish culverts.
- $15 million for US 2.
Please know that this transportation revenue package is separate from the state transportation budget. The 2013-15 transportation budget passed earlier in the legislative session and was signed into law. It represents $8.8 billion – $5.2 billion for capital projects and $3.6 billion for operating programs. The sources for this funding include: the state gas tax; bonds; federal funds; licenses/permits/fees; ferry fares; toll revenue; vehicle sales tax; rental car tax; local funds; and a $0.25 ferry capital surcharge. In other words, you are already helping to pay for state transportation needs – regardless of the outcome of the transportation revenue package that is currently being considered by the Legislature.
I would like to hear from you on this issue. Do you support a new transportation revenue package, including a state gas tax increase of 10.5 cents, to pay for projects statewide? Share your views here. Or, you can e-mail me your thoughts through my Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/kristiansen.
In your service,