Last week, House and Senate Democrat leaders unveiled a $16.8 billion, 16-year transportation funding package called “Move Ahead Washington” that passed the Senate Transportation Committee on Monday. The $16.8 billion plan would be funded from the following revenue streams:
- $5.4 billion from Washington’s new carbon cap and trade program
- $3.4 billion in federal infrastructure funds
- $2 billion one-time transfer from the state’s General Fund
- Several increases in fees, including:
- $2.053 billion from a $0.06 per gallon fee on fuel exported from Washington State
- $1.4 billion increase in license fees for automobiles and motorcycles
- $1.6 billion increase in aircraft fuel taxes, driver’s license, and permit fees.
The plan does not increase the gas tax, nor does it rely on new bond authority. Accordingly, the plan does not require bipartisan support to be adopted. If majority Democrats have the requisite votes, the package can be approved without any Republican support. This is a dramatic deviation from the previous three decades of bipartisan cooperation on transportation.
Investments included in the Move Ahead package
Washington’s Constitution mandates that certain revenues, including fuel taxes, be dedicated for highway maintenance and improvements (commonly referred to as “18th amendment protected revenues”).
Revenues from non-18th amendment protected revenues, including carbon cap and trade, general fund transfers, license fees, and federal funds, can be used for non-road investments in transit, pedestrian, rail, and environmental projects.
18th amendment restricted fund investments total $11.2 billion and include:
- $1.1 billion in four new ferries and ferry operations and maintenance
- $2.6 billion in new projects, including the Columbia River Bridge, US 2 trestle, Highway 18 widening, the Hood River Bridge, and other HOV-related projects
- $1.4 billion to bolster funding for I-405 corridor construction, SR 520 improvements, Snoqualmie Pass, and the Puget Sound Gateway project
- $2.4 billion for fish barrier removal
- $3.0 billion in preservation and maintenance
- Additional investments in aviation infrastructure, equity initiatives, and freight rail projects
Non-restricted fund investments total $5.4 billion and include:
- $1.3 billion in bike and pedestrian grant programs and school transportation improvements
- $3.0 billion in transit
- $488 million in alternative fuels and electrification
- $435 million in the electrification of ferries
- $150 million for ultra-high-speed rail
Washington’s oil refineries provide most of the fuel used in Oregon, Idaho, and even into British Columbia—hence the $0.06 per gallon export fee directly impacts their fuel prices. Lawmakers in Idaho and Oregon are expressing concern with the $ 2 billion in fees that would be imposed on their residents.
Last week, the Senate Transportation Committee held four hours of hearings on the package and passed it out of Committee on Monday on a party-line vote. The Majority Party is hinting at the possible floor vote by the end of this week. The House has scheduled hearings on Thursday.