Kessler joins in vote to increase gas tax, sales tax and more fees
Traffic fix: Green light in Olympia?
By DAVID AMMONS
OLYMPIA (AP) -- It was touch-and-go, but House and Senate negotiators reported tentative agreement Friday on
a $4 billion, decade-long plan to improve Washington's congested highways.
A nickel boost in the state's gas tax is part of the finance package.
"We have a deal," said House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, pumping a fist.
Senate Transportation Chairman Jim Horn, R-Mercer Island, and his House counterpart, Ed Murray, D-Seattle, cautioned that the compromise still could come unraveled in the final wordsmithing.
Leaders said they hoped to push the package through the House on Saturday and through the Senate before the Sunday night adjournment deadline.
"It's a good package, a pretty good blend of the House and Senate positions," said Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland. "It's something everybody can feel good about. It wasn't just chopping down the middle, some for you and some for me."
The plan provides about $4.1 billion in additional transportation spending over the next decade. The money will go for roads, ferries, rail, car pool lanes, transit and other related uses.
The package blends the views of the Republican-controlled Senate, which wanted to focus on highways of statewide significance as lawmakers deal with congestion, and the Democratic House, which has sought a package with more non-highway funding.
The vote comes just months after voters flatly rejected a fatter $7.7 billion proposal that relied on a 9-cent gas tax increase.
The state's 23-cent-a-gallon gas tax hasn't been raised since 1991.
The new package also includes a 15 percent surcharge on commercial trucks, with funds to be used for freight mobility, and a small sales tax on new and used cars. Further details were not released Friday night.
The package includes a specific list of projects. All are ready to go and improve safety or provide congestion relief, Horn said.
Both Horn and Murray said the package will spur the economy by creating thousands of construction jobs, while easing congestion that has hampered economic growth and cost businesses and commuters millions in wasted time, gasoline and productivity.
Both credited Gov. Gary Locke's strong push for a deal and Boeing executive Alan Mulally's personal lobbying this week.
Washington is hoping that Boeing will build its next generation jetliner, the 7E7, in the state. Boeing and other businesses have said transportation is their No. 1 concern.
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