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House transportation budget calls for next step in study of VMT miles-driven tax

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on April 4, 2013 at 11:09 am |
April 4, 2013 11:11 am

In January, a study done with $775,000 in funding from the Legislature concluded that charging drivers by the mile would be feasible in Washington. House Democrats today called for spending another $400,000 on the next phase of study.

Road taxes now are paid at the pump.
Road taxes now are paid at the pump.

House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn’s budget would have the Transportation Commission develop the “business case” for “a road usage charge” to replace the gas tax.

That would likely include evaluation of the cost to operate and enforce a road usage charge, or vehicle-miles-traveled tax, as it’s better known.

Clibborn today released her plan for spending $8.4 billion in existing tax revenue, which drew some cautious praise from Republicans in a news release. (Clibborn’s proposal for new taxes is a separate plan that was released in February with less bipartisan acclaim.) Besides the vehicle-miles traveled tax study, here are other notable ways the plan is similar and different from a budget released Wednesday by the Senate:

  • Like the Senate’s plan, it would restore power to the commission to set tolls on the Tacoma Narrows bridge. Unlike the Senate’s plan, it would do the same for planned toll projects, including the Seattle deep bore tunnel and the Columbia River Crossing.
  • It would save $2.1 million by ending underused ferry runs, including two round trips per day between Tacoma and Vashon Island: the boats that sail from 1:40 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. from Point Defiance and those that sail at 2:10 p.m. and 10:55 p.m. from Tahlequah. The Senate budget did not cancel ferry runs.
  • Unlike the Senate, the House doesn’t call for a plan to move ferries onto Good to Go.
  • The House gives the state toll division a bit more money, nearly $63 million instead of the Senate’s $61 million. Both would be more than the $56 million spent on toll operations in the last budget and both call for administrative efficiencies to constrain the increasing spending.
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