February 25, 2019
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Forward Washington transportation package unveiled with $17 billion in investments



After months of planning and discussion, Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, unveiled his $17.1 billion transportation package last week. The Forward Washington plan includes billions of dollars for new bridges, widening highways, upkeep of existing infrastructure, repairing fish passages, building five electric-powered ferries, and more.

Nearly half of the money for the package would be raised through a new carbon tax of $15 per ton. That would translate to about 15 cents per gallon of gasoline, The Spokesman-Review reported, and would be in addition to a 6 cent per gallon gas tax that is also part of the package. The bill would also raise fees on commercial and private vehicles, property development and electric vehicles, with taxes on rental cars, bicycles and auto parts.

Last winter, AWB staff toured the state to meet with employers regarding the state’s transportation needs. The feedback received during the tour made it clear there is a need for additional transportation revenue, but employers also expressed serious concerns about a new carbon fee and statewide impact fees, both of which are included in Hobbs’ proposal.

The proposal lays out these funding sources and planned expenditures under the package. Three bills encompass the package: SB 5970, SB 5971 and SB 5972.

The Spokesman-Review and The Herald have more on the package.

Washington voters have rejected two previous carbon tax measures, and the Legislature failed to move a bill last year. Hobbs pointed to language in his bill limiting future fuel standards and setting the carbon fee at a fixed rate, without automatic increases, which he believes would help the package gain traction. He also noted that his proposal earmarks proceeds from the carbon tax for transportation projects.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, who caucuses with Republicans, said the bill is the best alternative for Republicans.

“Gov. Inslee and the Democrats are in the majority,” Sheldon said. “They will have a carbon package that passes. And I’d like to see a package that is more akin to Hobbs’ package.”

Hobbs acknowledged that the carbon fee and gas tax would probably mean Washington has the most expensive gas in the nation.

Hobbs said the transportation package would create an estimated 65,000 family-wage jobs.

“The infrastructure and environmental challenges we face should be treated as an opportunity, not a barrier,” said Hobbs in announcing the package. “These investments will create tens of thousands of jobs, modernize Washington’s transportation systems, and address some truly urgent environmental needs.”

The new package comes as major projects authorized by the 2015 Connecting Washington package begin to come online.

Last week, new freeway carpool lanes were connected in Renton, linking the HOV lanes on Highway 167 and the carpool lanes on Interstate 405. The new two-way crossing required two years of construction and $167 million, but will make a big difference for commuters. The project was opened four months ahead of schedule. The Seattle Times covered the story.

Contact Mike Ennis, AWB government affairs director for transportation policy, to learn more.



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