Spin Control

WA Lege Day 71: Gas tax hike unlikely on this year's ballot

OLYMPIA -- Washington voters will not be asked to raise gas taxes or any other tax related to roads, at least not this fall. 2012, however, is another matter.

As they announced the House proposal for an $8.9 billion transportation budget, the chairwoman and ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee agreed Monday that there'd be no request for a tax increase to pay for more road projects this year.

"Sometime in the future" Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said.

The state will need more money eventually for some ongoing projects, including Spokane's North-South Freeway, Rep. Mike Armstrong of Wenatchee, the panel's ranking Republican said. But he's not willing to support an increase in the gas tax yet.

"New revenue is going to be needed. I'm not sure a gas tax is going to be part of it," Armstrong said.

The proposed House Transportation budget sets aside some $72 million over the next two years for the freeway, also known as the North Spokane Corridor, about $27 million of it from a special account fed by the extra five-cent per gallon tax on gasoline voters approved in 2003.

But gasoline taxes are not the reliable source of money for road projects that they were in the past because of higher gas mileage in new cars and decreased driving by motorists, committee members said.
Clibborn said she wasn't looking at any new revenue sources beyond a gas tax but Armstrong said Republicans were "looking at a bunch of options", which he declined to detail.

"There's really no silver bullet that would save us from decreasing gas tax revenues," Clibborn said.

Rep. Marko Liais, D-Edmonds, the committee's vice chairman, argued that raising the gas tax on a per gallon basis really should be seen as an increase on motorists because they'd be paying about the same amount in taxes with their fuel efficient cars. "It's really keeping steady as gas use declines."




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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