OLYMPIA – Legislators began hearings Thursday on competing but similar multibillion-dollar spending plans for Washington’s highways, bridges, ferries and mass transit.
Prepared separately by the House and Senate, the two $8.4 billion transportation budget proposals have many things in common. Described variously as “bare bones” and “Band-Aid” by some Democrats involved in writing the plans, neither calls for big new projects or new taxes.
While they differ on some key elements involving ferries and some West Side projects, both would spend about $75 million between mid-2013 and mid-2015 on state projects in Spokane County.
The bulk of that, $68.2 million, would be for continuing work on the North Spokane Corridor, the local “megaproject” that receives money from gasoline taxes approved by voters.
Both budget proposals also have $5.3 million for improvements to Interstate 90 west of the Idaho border, $1.3 million for the intersection of U.S. 195 and Cheney Road, and $1.3 million for the Riverside Avenue extension.
The House Transportation Committee released its budget Thursday morning, a day after the Senate panel released its plan. Rep. Ed Orcutt of Kalama, the house committee’s ranking Republican, said a no-new-taxes plan was “the right approach.”
Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, warned it would lead to problems in the coming years: “This is a Band-Aid for our transportation system, not a long-term solution for moving people and goods around our state.”
House Democrats unveiled a $10 billion plan in February to build new projects with money raised from new fees and taxes, including a 2-cent per gallon increase on gasoline each year for five years.
Senate committee members said Wednesday they were waiting to see what kind of tax increase the House can pass before considering a hike on their own. But on Thursday, a spokesman for House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said she’s working on a revised, scaled-down version of that plan.