Spin Control

Gas tax proposal coming

OLYMPIA -- A major transportation plan will be unveiled Wednesday that features 2-cent per year increases in the state's gasoline tax.

The proposal, from House Transportation Committee Chairman Judy Clibborn, will divide the money between new projects and maintenance and eventually raise the state's gas tax by a total of 10 cents.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who has said he wants a transportation package that would both build new projects and fix some of its crumbling infrastructure, refused to endorse it Tuesday, saying only that it is "a good start on that discussion."

Inslee named a new transportation secretary as one of three cabinet-level appointments, selecting Lynn Peterson, who is currently a transportation advisor to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said majority Democrats in that chamber view the projects the tax increase would support as a jobs package, and said the plan will set aside significant amounts for maintenance. Previous gasoline tax packages have been criticized as emphasizing new mega projects and not leaving enough for ongoing road repairs.

Chopp said it was too early to say what the exact split would be, or the prospects to pass such a plan in the House. "It's just a concept paper at this point." 

Another unknown: what type of majority such a plan will need. The state Supreme Court is deliberating on the constitutionality of voter-passed laws for a two-thirds supermajority on any tax increase.

If that standard is upheld, "it's going to be extremely difficult" to pass that type of tax increase in the Legislature, Inslee said. That would mean voters would have to approve it in the November election.




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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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