OLYMPIA, Wash. — House and Senate Democrats in Washington state on Tuesday unveiled a $16 billion, 16-year transportation revenue package that spends on a variety of projects ranging from building new hybrid electric ferries and funding more walking and biking corridors to highway maintenance and replacing fish passage culverts.
Unlike previous packages that have included gas tax increases, this plan gets a bulk of its funding — $5.4 billion — from a carbon pricing program signed into law last year that requires the state’s largest emitters, like refineries, to purchase credits for allowed emissions if they exceed a cap set by regulators.
Other revenue sources include $3.4 billion from the the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed in November, $2 billion from the state operating budget, and $2 billion from a new 6-cent-per-gallon tax on fuel exported to states with a lower gas tax rate than Washington, like Oregon, Alaska and Idaho.
About $3.1 billion would be spent on transit programs, $3 billion would go toward highway preservation and maintenance and $2.6 billion would fulfill the state’s court-ordered obligation to replace fish passage culverts.
Another $1.3 billion would be spent on building four new hybrid electric ferries and electrifying two existing ships, and $1.2 billion would be spent on programs like those that promote walking and bicycling to school through infrastructure improvements and bike and pedestrian safety programs. Funding would also be provided to ensure that those age 18 and younger can ride for free on public transportation.
Rep. Jake Fey and Sen. Marko Liias, both Democrats who chair their chambers’ transportation committees, released the plan at a news conference.
“We’ve worked hard over the last two years to listen to communities all across Washington, and they told us that their top priorities included preserving our infrastructure, finishing projects we’ve started, taking action against climate change, expanding multimodal options, and addressing the harm of past transportation policies,” Fey said in a written statement.
Republicans, who are the minority party in both chambers, have expressed frustration that they haven’t had more input in what has normally been a bipartisan process in the past.
“It’s not the way we’ve seen transportation done in our state for decades,” Republican Sen. John Braun said. “For whatever reason, the majorities have chosen to build an entire package by themselves hoping that because we have been broadly supportive of transportation packages, we would just come along without really truly being involved. That’s pretty disappointing.”
Democrats have argued that in a short 60-day legislative session, they needed to have agreement among themselves in order to ensure a package could move this year, and said that there have been conversations with Republicans and that elements of the plan reflect those talks.
The session is scheduled to end March 10.
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