OLYMPIA – A $16 billion transportation tax and fee bill with an 11.9-cent gasoline tax increase hit some roadblocks early Wednesday but eventually passed the House and Senate and was sent to Gov. Jay Inslee.
Lawmakers must still pass bills that approve the list of projects and authorize the sale of bonds for some of them, but that won’t happen until they are called back to the capital sometime after the July Fourth weekend.
The taxes and fees would provide money for highways, bridges, and mass transit and ferry projects, and was praised by supporters as a way to create jobs and boost the economy as well as ease traffic problems. But opponents labeled it the biggest tax increase in state history and argued unsuccessfully it should be sent to the ballot to give voters the final say.
Announced Monday, it moved through the Senate with ease that evening on a 39-9 vote but got stuck Tuesday in the House as leaders tried to round up the votes necessary to pass it. Republicans tried but failed to add an amendment that would automatically send the tax increases to the ballot for voter approval – something Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, called a stall tactic.
“Let’s do what we were sent here to do,” Riccelli said, later urging a vote for the package he said was good for Spokane and would keep the community moving forward. For every $1 Spokane County residents are estimated to pay in taxes, they will get $1.29 in projects.
Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, predicted the higher gasoline taxes will have some drivers going to Idaho to buy fuel and could prompt businesses to move out of the state. “Tax and spend isn’t a solution. It’s shackling our kids and grandkids,” he said.
The measure raises gasoline taxes a total of 11.9 cents per gallon within the next year – 7 cents on Aug. 1 and 4.9 cents on July 1, 2016. It also increases weight fees for trucks and passenger vehicles and levies a $5 fee on all new studded tires sold after July 1, 2016.
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