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Pressure builds for gas tax; House may vote

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on June 21, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
June 21, 2013 5:33 pm

Lawmakers appear to be getting close to a budget deal, but Gov. Jay Inslee said he would insist they stay until they also pass a package of transportation tax and fee increases.167 509

Transportation leaders, like budget writers, plan to negotiate into the weekend. Transportation advocates including Rep. Judy Clibborn said Speaker Frank Chopp has pledged to hold a vote in the House, which Chopp’s spokeswoman confirmed. Clibborn said negotiators are talking about whether the Senate would then take it up and in what form.

Supporters of the proposal have worried that once lawmakers pass a budget — now more than seven weeks overdue and less than 10 days away from sending state government into shutdown mode — they will make a quick exit. Inslee told reporters that’s not acceptable.

“I intend to insist that legislators stay until they get their jobs done, and one of those important jobs is to deal with deficient bridges, deficient roads, needs for new construction, light rail system, and they should not go home until they get that job done,” the Democratic governor said.

Of course, the Legislature can go home whenever it wants. But the governor has the power to call lawmakers back to Olympia — in this case, for a third special session. He didn’t say if he would call them back for another round, but said it’s “not something I’d rule out.”

The proposal includes a gas tax increase of at least 10 cents a gallon to fund road projects including the expansion of state Route 167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma and of SR 509 from near SeaTac to Interstate 5. The coalitions backing both projects ramped up the pressure today with a news release calling out the Pierce County and South King County delegations.

The advocates said every lawmaker from their area should “tell their leadership it is time for a vote,” saying “lawmakers should be judged and evaluated on whether they worked and contributed toward the passage of a final transportation package.”

“I need my legislators to make the Transportation Revenue Package a must have.  Our customers and Totem Ocean urge our legislators to pick action over excuses,” John Parrott, President of Totem Ocean Trailer Express, said in the news release.

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