OLYMPIA – Washington drivers won’t see gasoline taxes rise 11.5 cents over the next three year. But they also might not see the Legislature come up with the money to finish the North Spokane Corridor or build several other “mega projects” many people think the state needs.
An $8 billion transportation package that would have raised fuel and motor vehicle taxes and generated money for major road projects, maintenance and mass transit will not pass the Legislature this session, legislators and Gov. Jay Inslee agreed Wednesday. In doubt for a week, the package officially died with recriminations all around.
Senate Republicans criticized Democrats for not being willing to accept reforms to the way the state plans, funds and builds major transportation projects.
Democrats, in turn, said the predominantly Republican coalition controlling the Senate never even scheduled a committee hearing on their package so it could be brought to a vote.
House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen said Inslee should have led a “cohesive effort” to bring the leaders of both chambers together and negotiate a deal. A spokesman for Inslee said the governor had a meeting with Senate Transportation Co-Chairman Curtis King, R-Yakima, on Monday and asked if a new proposal was worth bringing all leaders together for negotiations.
Inslee, who has made a transportation package one of his top priorities since taking office last year, said he found it difficult to understand why the Legislature couldn’t reach an agreement on something the state clearly needs.
The House passed its version of a package last year, and Democrats who control that chamber said they were ready to negotiate as soon as the Senate passed one of its own.
Senate Republicans introduced a different proposal last month that never had the necessary votes to pass and thus never came to a vote.
That Senate version had $750 million to finish the North Spokane Corridor, sometimes called the north-south freeway. The House version had about $480 million, which would complete the next phase.