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Spin Control

Mon., April 8, 2013, 4:51 p.m.

House panel keeps toll power with commission

OLYMPIA -- The ability to set tolls on bridges, ferries and some special highway lanes would stay with the appointed Transportation Commission rather than the Legislature under an amendment rejected Monday afternoon.

The House Transportation Committee rejected an amendment to the 2013-15 budget that would require the Legislature to set all tolls, which was part of an initiative approved last year.

The Legislature regularly delegates that authority to the commission, but Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said voters should be able to  hold legislators accountable for those tolls at the next election, not an unelected board.

But Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said the bond market, which sets the rates for the bonds the state must sell to build big projects, generally charges more if a political body like the Legislature is in charge of setting the fares and tolls that will pay off the bonds. Approving the amendment would make financing more expensive, Clibborn said.

The amendment failed on a voice vote.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.