Gas tax hike part of House Democrats’ transportation plan

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Democratic leaders in the Washington state House on Tuesday unveiled a 16-year, $25.8 billion transportation package that includes an 18-cent increase in the gas tax and a new fee on carbon emissions.

The Everett Herald reported that supporters have said the new revenue is needed to cover the cost of projects like the replacement of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River and the removal of state-owned culverts that are blocking fish passage.

Democratic Rep. Jake Fey, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said that funds would also go toward maintaining and preserving local roads and state highways and other construction projects.

Under the proposal, $17.6 billion would come largely from the gas tax increase, which would be imposed over the next two years and indexed for inflation going forward.

The carbon fee would provide $8.2 billion, with the fee starting at $15 per metric ton of emissions, rising to $20 in the next biennium and $25 in the 2025-27 budget cycle. Diesel fuel taxes will rise 21 cents per gallon under the plan.

“We are really committed to moving a transportation package and getting it to the governor’s desk for signing,” said House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma. “I think this moves the ball down the field well.”

The chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Sen. Steve Hobbs, is expected to present the Senate proposal as early as next week.

Hobbs said that plan will be similar to the 15-year, $17 billion package he’s pushed the past two sessions — which raises money from a gas tax hike, plus either a flat fee on carbon emissions or a cap-and-invest system.

Lawmakers are in their second week of the 105-day legislative session. It ends April 25.