State leaders agree on gas tax, but not everything

THE NEWS TRIBUNE (TACOMA)June 12, 2013 

The Republican transportation leader in the state Senate has prepared his own version of a gas-tax and fee-raising plan that could be taken up in the second special session that begins Wednesday.

The proposal is a sign that a transportation tax plan is not dead, as it seemed to some lawmakers less than a week ago. But the differences between Yakima Republican Curtis King’s version and the package Democrats are promoting show the potential difficulty of final negotiations.

King, co-chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, and Democratic transportation leaders have agreed the package should raise the gas tax by 101/2 cents and increase vehicle weight fees.

Both versions fund extensions of state Routes 167 and 509 that would be dependent on tolling those highways and toll lanes on Interstate 5. But King’s allocation of $1.53 billion for those projects is about $260 million higher than Democrats’.

The reason King has more money to spend on Routes 167 and 509 – and on maintenance and preservation of roads and bridges, which would get an extra $300 million – is because he does not propose funding a Columbia River Crossing replacement on Interstate 5 in Vancouver or many of the smaller projects in the Democrats’ package.

His package spends twice as much, $350 million, as Democrats proposed for improvements to I-5 near Joint Base Lewis-McChord. King’s proposal would fully fund a project to redo intersections at Berkeley Avenue and Thorne Lane and add an extra lane of highway in both directions between those two points.

King said he tried “to complete projects rather than piecemealing them.”

King’s version also gives local governments in Pierce County and elsewhere some local authority, but offers less help for mass transit riders. His plan:

 • Allow Pierce and Snohomish counties to levy the same kind of $20 car-tab fee that King County raises, and extend the expiring fee authority in King – but all three counties would have to spend the money on roads and bridges.

 • Expand the sales tax that transit agencies can raise with voter consent. That doesn’t help Pierce Transit, which hasn’t had voter support.

 • Would not share state fees with local transit agencies.

 • Would not allow Tacoma, Olympia and other cities that have formed transportation districts to increase their car tab fees from $20 to $40 without voter approval.

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