House, Senate Democrats release $16 billion transportation package

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington state House and Senate Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a 16-year, $16 billion transportation revenue package that is being spent on a variety of projects ranging from construction from new hybrid electric ferries and funding for more walking and cycling lanes to road maintenance and replacement of fish passage culverts.

Unlike previous packages that included gas tax increases, this plan gets much of its funding — $5.4 billion — from a carbon pricing program signed last year that forces the most large state emitters, such as refineries, to buy credits for permitted emissions if they exceed a cap set by regulators.

Other sources of revenue include $3.4 billion from 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 cents per gallon tax on fuel exported to the states. with a lower gas tax rate than Washington, such as Oregon, Alaska and Idaho.

About $3.1 billion would be spent on public transit programs, $3 billion would go toward the preservation and maintenance of highways, and $2.6 billion would fulfill the state obligation ordered by the court to replace fish passage culverts.

An additional $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 cycling on the water. school through infrastructure improvements and safety programs for bicycles and pedestrians. Funding would also be provided to ensure that people aged 18 and under can travel for free on public transport.

Rep. Jake Fey and Sen. Marko Liias, both Democrats who chair their chambers’ transportation committees, released the plan at a press conference.

“We have worked hard over the past two years to listen to communities across Washington, and they have told us that their top priorities include preserving our infrastructure, finishing the projects we have started, taking action against the climate change, expanding multimodal options and addressing the damage caused by past transportation policies,” Fey said in a written statement.

Republicans, who are the minority party in both chambers, expressed frustration at not having contributed more to what was normally a bipartisan process in the past.

“That’s not how we’ve seen transportation in our state for decades,” Republican Sen. John Braun said. “For some reason the majorities chose to build a full package themselves hoping that because we largely supported the transport packages, we would just be there without really being really involved. It’s quite disappointing.

Democrats argued that in a short 60-day legislative session they needed to agree among themselves to ensure a package could move forward this year, and said there had been conversations with the Republicans and that elements of the plan reflected those talks.

The session must end on March 10.

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