State legislators must pass a state transportation revenue package before the second special session adjourns.
LEGISLATORS are close enough to taste the victory of passing a statewide transportation package that would create thousands of jobs and make the state’s infrastructure safer for all. They must not let this opportunity slip before the second session ends.
After more than two years of negotiations, state Senate and House negotiators appear headed toward a deal that would invest $15 billion into maintenance and construction work over the next 16 years. Much of that money would be raised by phasing in an 11.7-cent-per-gallon gas-tax hike and increasing other vehicle fees.
Members from both chambers are working out most of their differences, including a project list that would touch all parts of Washington. The likely final plan would also give King, Snohomish and Pierce counties the authority they need to ask voters for up to $15 billion to expand Sound Transit’s light-rail system.
One of the final sticking points is wording in the Senate package designed to discourage Gov. Jay Inslee from implementing a low-carbon fuel standard by executive order. If he does, funds would be diverted from transit and local transportation districts to roads.
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Imposing a low-carbon fuel standard would likely raise fuel costs — by how much is in dispute — for drivers and businesses already nervous about a higher gas tax. Looming on the horizon is the possibility of additional carbon taxes proposed by the governor or by citizen initiative.
Inslee has asked the Legislature to come up with its own plan to implement a clean-fuel standard. If that’s not politically feasible, he should be open to other options, including a delay in taking any executive action.
That doesn’t mean Washington will never implement a low-carbon fuel standard. The governor would need to make a stronger case to his fellow lawmakers and the public.
Instead of zeroing in on one disagreement, lawmakers must focus on the many aspects of a transportation package they can agree on. This includes tax incentives for fuel-efficient car purchases and businesses that switch to fuel alternatives, and expanding electric-vehicle charging stations.
Lawmakers must keep their eyes on the prize: a plan that relieves congestion, gets people home to their families quicker, creates jobs and invests in public transit.
Negotiators say they are nearing a deal. They and the governor should close it — or face explaining why they didn’t to voters next year.