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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Marr, Baumgartner debate freeway spending; Does Seattle take more than its fair share?

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Jonathan Brunt - The Spokesman-Review

Democratic state Sen. Chris Marr and his Republican opponent, Michael Baumgartner, debate funding for the North Spokane Corridor in the latest in a series of Spokesman-Review candidates videos.

Both support the freeway's extension south of Francis Avenue but have different thoughts about paying for it.

So is Spokane shortchanged in transportation funding, as some candidates believe? Does Seattle and the Puget Sound hog all the money? The answers are in a state report found here. It details how each county has done in attracting transportation money.

Considering all expected state transportation funding from 2004 through 2017, including the 2003 and 2005 gas taxes, the report estimates that Spokane County gets only 70 cents of investment for every tax dollar its residents contribute. Only three counties did worse -- Benton, Yakima and Franklin.

King County gets 98 cents of investment for each dollar it contributes. Pierce County, home of Tacoma, gets 90 cents. Snohomish County, home of Everett, gets 89 cents. Clark County, home of Vancouver, gets only 81 cents.

What places get more than they invest?

Rural counties. Each county bordering Spokane gets more transportation money than its residents paid in taxes, except Steven County, which gets 98 cents for each buck it contributes. Lincoln County gets $4.10 for each dollar it contributes. Garfield, the least populated county in the state, gets a whopping $5.81 for each dollar it contributes.

Transportation officials say it's not surprising that urban places subsidize highway construction in rural areas. In a place like Garfield County (population 2,400), it doesn't take much of a project to skew the numbers.

Much of the recent progress on the North Spokane Corridor is the result of the gas taxes approved in 2003 and 2005. And some, such as Marr, say another gas tax is likely to be the way the project continues moving south.

The 2003 package (5 cents per gallon of gas) is returning about 97 cents of transportation investment into Spokane County for each dollar of the 2003 tax paid at the pump. King County breaks even.

Spokane County did considerably worse in the 2005 package (9.5 cents per gallon of gas), getting only 33 cents for each dollar of gas tax. King County is getting $1.22 for each dollar it pays as part of the 2005 gas tax.

Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. He is the government editor. He previously was a reporter who covered Spokane City Hall, Spokane County government and public safety.

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