The Washington Senate approved state transportation and construction budgets Thursday night that have received strong reviews from the Republican-dominated state House.
The $3.1 billion, two-year highway budget sailed through the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 41-7. It’s a no-new-taxes plan, reflecting the reluctance of both houses to place a gasoline tax increase on the statewide ballot.
The $1.5 billion construction plan, financing mostly schools, prisons and college buildings, was a closer call, passing 27-19. It takes 25 votes to pass a bill in the Senate.
Both budgets were considerably larger than the versions passed earlier by the conservative House. But key House leaders have endorsed the general directions taken by the Senate and say they are optimistic that ironing out the differences will be relatively easy.
The construction budget level can’t be set until negotiators decide on the size of the state general operating budget. Most construction is financed by selling state bonds and state law says principal and interest payments cannot exceed 7 percent of the main budget.
The House operating budget is more than $600 million below the Senate level. The House construction plan is more than $100 million below the Senate’s.
The House passed a one-year transportation budget of $1.66 billion earlier in the week, but is likely to respond well to the Senate version that emphasizes more roads and less planning and engineering studies, said Senate Transportation Chairman Brad Owen, D-Shelton.
The Senate plan, the amended version of HB2080, is $261 million below current levels. It would pay for highway projects, including repairs, that are under way, and would expand freeway carpool lanes.
It would allow purchase of the state’s first government-owned trains and another passenger-only ferry.