Washington State’s House and Senate Democrats released a $16 billion, 16-year transportation package which covers a broad range of projects and services, ranging from free public transportation for children, purchasing four new hybrid-electric ferries, converting two existing ferries to electric power, funding more pedestrian and bicycle corridors, and transit.
Much of the interest in the transportation proposal, centers around how the legislature proposes funding the package.
As submitted, a large chunk of the funding—$5.4 billion—comes from carbon taxes on refineries, by purchasing credits for allowed emissions should they exceed a cap established by regulators. Another $3.4 billion will come from the Federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act President Biden signed into law back in November. $2 billion will come from the state operating budget and another $2 billion from a new 6-cent-per-gallon tax on fuel exported to states with lower gas tax rates than Washington, such as Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. Even fees related to enhanced driver’s licenses will be included in funding the package.
During the press conference, democrats announced they were open to public feedback as “this is only the first draft.” Yet, Republicans were largely left out of the plan’s writing process.
In related news, the House held its first hearing on transitioning Washington’s gas tax into a pay-per-mile system, raising privacy concerns with its critics. The move to change from a gas tax comes as consumers have increasingly embraced electric vehicles, which allow them to sidestep taxes charged at the pump.