By Jerry Cornfield / Herald Writer
OLYMPIA – Six Democrats, three Republicans and one governor made the difference Sunday as the state House passed the largest gas tax increase and transportation improvement package in history a day after turning it down.
The representatives approved raising the gas tax by 9.5 cents over the next four years to pay for $8.5 billion in highway, ferry, rail, bus and bridge projects. Nearly half of the money is earmarked for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Highway 520 floating bridge and easing congestion on I-405.
Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, was among those who switched; he voted against the package Saturday when it was initially defeated, 53-45.
He said he reversed course for constituents. “It’s interesting that I received a number of e-mails from Republicans asking me to change my vote,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see who they support in two years.”
Passage of a transportation plan dominated conversations Sunday morning and involved Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, and Republicans who helped craft the plan.
Gov. Christine Gregoire joined the effort and met privately with several representatives who voted against the plan.
“I made it clear that I would veto a package that doesn’t get the job done,” she said Sunday night. That would have meant a special session.
She said she encouraged them to not fear electoral repercussions of voting for the tax but instead realize it politically was the right thing for the state.
“It wasn’t easy. My hat goes off to them for their boldness and their courage,” Gregoire said.
Under the package, the state gas tax will rise by 3 cents on July 1, another 3 cents on July 1, 2006, two cents in 2007 and 1.5 cents in 2008. Of the increase, one penny will be shared with cities and counties.
For Snohomish County, the final package of projects includes $123 million for easing congestion on Highway 9, $51 million for improvements on Highway 532 from I-5 to Stanwood, $44 million to build a ramp at I-5 and Highway 524, and $40 million to help Everett rebuild the I-5 interchange at 41st Street.
Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@ heraldnet.com.