December 28, 1997 in City

Locke’s Gas Tax Plan The Better Solution

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Gov. Gary Locke, that big-spending Democrat, wants to raise the gasoline tax. Braaaaaack.

Republican legislators, those short-sighted tightwads, don’t want to improve our potholed, congested roads. Neener neener neener.

If the preceding rhetoric is all the people of Washington are going to get from the upcoming legislative session, why have a legislative session at all? The two political parties could just prepare the usual attack ads and go straight to their fund raising for the fall campaigns.

But the people of Washington do not elect state officials for the entertainment value of a partisan spitting match.

The public deserves leaders who can dig deeper than the shallow bombast about waste and taxes that passes, these days, for political dialogue.

The public deserves leaders who can see far enough to recognize the value of better roads - to life and limb, to businesses, to economic growth, to clean air.

The public deserves real progress in state transportation services this year - greater efficiency, a restructuring of the revenue sources that clearly can’t keep up with demand, and the provision of additional funds to fix state and local roads.

There is, this year, an excellent opportunity for elected officials to achieve all of these goals, and in the process to earn the applause of voters in the fall.

Economic growth has brought more revenue to the state’s general fund than statutory budget ceilings allow the state to spend. But the general fund does not cover transportation.

Revenue to the state transportation fund has not kept pace with economic growth, with inflation in road-construction costs, with traffic growth, or with the deterioration of existing roads. That’s why the state can’t afford to expand I-90 in the Spokane Valley or fix killer roads like Highway 395 north of Spokane. It’s why the Spokane City Council worries about how it will pay for needed projects, from basic maintenance to replacement of the badly deteriorated Post Street Bridge.

Locke offers a comprehensive proposal that would meet all of these road needs, local as well as state, by raising the gasoline tax.

The Legislature’s Republican leaders are working on a scheme that would fund the needs of state roads, but not city or county roads. The GOP’s plan would dedicate the auto license tax, which now feeds the overflowing general fund, to transportation. Granted, the auto tax is more responsive to economic growth than the gas tax is. But legislators will betray their communities if they fail to help the urgent transportation needs of city and county governments.

Therefore Locke’s proposal is the better of the two. But if he and legislative leaders do their duty, negotiation in the months to come will produce a compromise superior to the opening offers from either side.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Webster/For the editorial board


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