Gas tax fails in state House

06:11 PM PDT on Saturday, April 23, 2005

Associated Press
King 5 News

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The state House defeated a gas tax increase on Saturday afternoon, but the issue isn't dead yet.

House members voted 53-45 against a proposal to increase the gas tax by 9.5 cents per gallon. The tax would pay for $8.5 billion worth of highway projects over the next generation.

Democrats, not wanting to shoulder the sole responsibility for raising taxes, hoped for bipartisan support for the plan. But only eight Republicans supported it.

After the vote, the two parties retreated to closed-door caucuses. Opponents of the bill say the tax increase is too steep, and unsuccessfully demanded a smaller tax hike for transportation.

Supporters say the transportation package pays for essential safety improvements, such as replacing the crumbling Alaskan Way Viaduct on Seattle's waterfront.

Backers said they hope to turn around the vote by attracting more support from both sides of the aisle. The measure passed the Senate earlier this week, so if it gets a majority in the House it will go to Governor Christine Gregoire for signing.

The proposed 16-year transportation plan would help finance such as the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, a new state Route 520 bridge across Lake Washington and improvements on Interstates 405 and 90. It also would finance hundreds of highway and bridge projects, rail, ferries and other improvements.

The gas tax increase would be phased in over four years, beginning with a 3-cent boost in July. The tax now is 28 cents a gallon.

Tolls, local taxes and weight fees on cars, light trucks and SUVs also are planned. The full gas tax hike and weight fee would cost motorists between $67 and $172 a year, depending on vehicle size.



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