Inslee proposes transportation plan with carbon tax

  • By Jerry Cornfield
  • Tuesday, December 16, 2014 11:18am
  • Local News

Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled a 12-year, $12 billion transportation proposal Tuesday that would be paid for with an array of fees and a new carbon pollution charge rather than a higher gas tax.

Of the total, $5.9 million is earmarked for highway projects, according to materials released by the governor’s office.

Another $2.9 million would be spent on maintenance and preservation of existing roads and bridges and $2.2 billion for transit service and environmental programs.

An overview of the list of projects and programs can be found here.

Without a new transportation package “our state is going to erode. Our economy is going to decline,” he said. “We are not going to accept a second class transportation system for a first-class state.”

The carbon pollution charge, which will be one of the most debated pieces of the proposal, would generate about as much as a 12-cent hike in the gas tax, Inslee said at a news conference. About 130 industrial firms will ultimately pay the fee, Inslee said.

“This is a new idea and like any new idea we will spend a lot of time talking about the intricacies of this idea,” he said.

Then he said Washington won’t be a trailblazer because eight northeast states and California already operate similar programs.

Transportation funding has been one of the most debated issues in Inslee’s tenure and Tuesday marked the first time the governor had put forth a comprehensive plan.

In 2013, House Democrats narrowly passed a $10 billion package with a 10-cent hike in the gas tax but the Republican-led majority in the state Senate refused to vote on it.

The caucus countered with a $12.3 billion package with a gas tax increase of 11.5 cents but didn’t vote on its own offering before the Legislature adjourned.

Last winter Inslee and leaders of the House and Senate transportation committees in both parties tried to negotiate an agreement before lawmakers began the 2014 session but came up short.

Talks broke down over what reforms to pursue. Republicans pushed for such things as a speedier permitting process and diversion of sales tax receipts on new construction projects away from the general fund where they now go and into the transportation budget.

Democrats strongly objected to such a shift because they say those dollars will come out of the pot used to pay for education, health care and social service programs.

Inslee’s proposal calls for two of the Republican ideas – faster permitting and retaining sales tax paid on new construction projects in the transportation budget rather than the general fund.

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