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Path cleared for no-taxes transportation spending plan; tax package still up in air

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on April 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm with No Comments »
April 18, 2013 10:13 am
Sen. Ann Rivers, R-18
Sen. Ann Rivers, R – La Center

The Columbia River Crossing remains a potential stumbling block to a proposed gas-tax increase, but it apparently has been removed as an impediment to the main transportation budget.

Last week, the no-new-taxes budget was stuck in committee because of a dispute over whether to provide planning money for the I-5 bridge. But both sides said today the logjam has been cleared.

The Senate Transportation Committee is due to vote on the plan Thursday morning. Republican Sen. Ann Rivers and Democratic Chairwoman Tracey Eide said the sides have a deal on which amendments will be allowed. The changes “put strong sideboards about what that money can be used for,” Rivers said. Eide said they would allow the funding contingent on a key U.S. Coast Guard sign-off on the project.

A tax proposal including the bridge to Portland among many other projects could get a vote next week in the House, leaving less than a week to win approval in the Senate in the regular 105-day session. But those on both sides of the Senate — Eide and Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom – said today there’s plenty of time to pass the tax package if lawmakers agree.

Besides the bridge, one potential battle had appeared to loom over whether to put the tax proposal to a public vote. But Tom said today that wasn’t worth fighting about, saying that initiative promoter Tim Eyman is sure to run a campaign to put the taxes to a vote even if lawmakers don’t.

UPDATE 4/18: The budget has passed out of committee. Sen. Don Benton said in a news release that his amendments would require a forensic audit of the CRC by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee. They would also hold back about 94 percent of the budget until the Coast Guard issues or denies a permit, Benton said. And they would prevent Gov. Jay Inslee from moving money from other transportation projects to the CRC, he said.

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