Wednesday, April 17, 2013
OLYMPIA — The Washington state House passed an $8.4 billion, two-year transportation budget proposal Tuesday, allocating money for maintenance, infrastructure and existing big-ticket projects such as the floating bridge across Lake Washington and replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel.
House Democrats, meanwhile, unveiled a revenue package that would augment the plan.
The budget proposal “continues the work on promises we made” for several existing projects, said Democratic Rep. Judy Clibborn of Mercer Island, the House Transportation Committee chairwoman.
The vote for the budget proposal was 68-28, with all but one Democrat voting in favor and Republicans split.
Those voting in opposition said the proposal exhibits misplaced priorities.
“This budget needs a lot more work,” said Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley. “We’re funding traffic cameras instead of more officers on our roadways. We’re funding light rail instead of more roads.”
The proposal heads next to the Senate, which has a rival budget plan that remains bottled up in its Transportation Committee.
The House Democrats’ revenue package would add an additional $8.4 billion to transportation coffers over the next 12 years. It would rely largely on a 10-cent hike in the gas tax, implemented over four years.
Unlike the now moot $9.8 billion, 10-year transportation revenue package put out by House Democrats in February, this revised proposal does not include an increase in the hazardous substance tax or a $25 fee on new bike purchases of over $500.
The revenue package includes money for large-scale items such as connecting State Route 167 and State Route 509 to Interstate 5, improvements to Interstate 405 and the North Spokane Corridor.
It also includes $450 million for the embattled Columbia River Crossing project connecting I-5 from Vancouver, Wash., to Portland.
House leaders hope to move the revenue package through the House Transportation Committee this week to get it to the floor for a vote next week.
If advanced from the House, it would face an uphill battle in the Senate. The Republican-dominated Senate majority has come out against the Columbia River Crossing, saying the planned bridge is too low and that it should not include light rail transit.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, has said that the bridge project must be excluded from any transportation revenue package for the latter to stand a chance of winning Senate approval.