Democrats revamp roads package with gas tax hikes

House Democrats have put forth a new version of a multi-billion dollar transportation package and positioned it for a vote as early as today.

Under the plan, the state would spend $9.7 billion on highways, bridges, ferries and bus service in the next 12 years.

One of the biggest chunks of money would come from a 10.5-cent increase in the gas tax starting with a hike of 6 cents a gallon on Aug. 1 and then a 4.5-cent increase on July 1, 2014.

The bill drops a special 3-cent per gallon increase to pay for the Highway 520 bridge that had been approved by the House Transportation Committee in April.

Projects to be undertaken with the money cover 11 pages in this document.

Most eyes in the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus will settle on the line item for the Columbia River Crossing which shows a $262.4 million expenditure in the next biennium.

The legislation authorizes the issuance of up to $650 million in bonds toward building a new bridge on I-5 over the Columbia River. It also prohibits spending a lot of the money until the U.S. Coast Guard approves a permit for the project and agreements are reached on the construction and operation of light rail service between Vancouver and Portland.

House Bill 1954 is on the floor calendar meaning it could be brought up for a vote whenever the leadership is ready.

Speaker Frank Chopp has said in the past that a vote would not occur until after an operating budget agreement is in hand.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee said last week he doesn’t want lawmakers to leave Olympia without passing a transportation funding bill – even if it means he summons them for a third special session.

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