OLYMPIA — A $17.8 billion statewide transportation package cleared the first legislative hurdle Wednesday.
The Democrat-led Senate Transportation Committee approved three bills underlying the plan — one containing programs and projects, another detailing sources of revenue to pay for them and a third concerning the sale of bonds to carry out construction. All three passed without Republican support.
Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, the committee chair and chief architect, said he hopes GOP senators will reconsider their positions when the measures reach the floor. “Deep down inside your heart you know what’s right,” he said.
The proposal, which spans 16 years, contains $1.8 billion to replace the aging westbound span of the U.S. 2 trestle between Lake Stevens and Everett; $90 million to widen a three-mile stretch of Highway 522 between Monroe and Maltby; $58.5 million to complete the Monroe bypass; and $58.2 million for widening of Highway 9 north of Clearview.
It also allots money to pay Washington’s share of a new I-5 bridge across the Columbia River, remove state-owned culverts, build new state ferries, bolster public transit systems and tackle projects in every legislative district in the state.
To cover the tab, the package counts on $5.2 billion from a 9.8-cent hike in the gas tax and $5.1 billion from a proposed carbon emissions cap-and-trade program. Smaller sums are pencilled in from roughly two dozen new or higher taxes and fees.
There’s a statewide assessment on new construction, a hike in the sales tax on auto parts and a boost to the rental car tax. Also on the list is a new per-trip fee on food delivery and ride-share services such as DoorDash and Uber and increases in weight fees, license plate charges and the excise tax on boats 16 feet and longer.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the committee agreed to axe a proposed hike in the watercraft excise tax and to delay the start of the fee on for-hire ride services from next January to January 2023.
An amendment was put forth to remove per trip fees on food delivery and for-hire ride services and replace them with a new one-time air quality surcharge on new vehicles. It failed.
Senate bills 5481, 5482 and 5483 are now in the Rules Committee, which will decide if and when to send them to the Senate floor for a vote.
Time is running out. The legislative session is scheduled to end April 25.
Reporter Jerry Cornfield: email@example.com | @dospueblos