Half of Senate majority backs gas tax package

Staff writerFebruary 13, 2014 

At least half of the 26-member Senate majority supports a new proposal that would raise the gas tax by 11 1/2 cents while making changes in how transportation money is spent, Sen. Curtis King says.

King said he has at least 13 votes for the plan he unveiled Thursday.

Eight members of the mostly Republican group made their intentions known by standing behind the Yakima Republican transportation co-chairman at a news conference. The group included one Democrat, Majority Leader Rodney Tom, plus Republicans Michael Baumgartner of Spokane, Randi Becker of Eatonville, Joe Fain of Auburn, Andy Hill of Redmond, Steve Litzow of Mercer Island and Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee.

The plan would raise $12.4 billion over 12 years. Republicans said they moved toward Democrats by increasing the amount of money in the package for mass transit to $365 million and for pedestrian and bike paths to $302 million. Transit has been a major sticking point.

But Republicans stuck to their guns in insisting on what they say are reforms, particularly a proposal to raise $840 million by rerouting sales tax on transportation projects back into transportation rather than to the main state fund used for schools, social services and other programs. Democrats oppose such a move.

No vote was announced but Republicans say they are ready to resume negotiating with Gov. Jay Inslee and Democrats. Talks broke off around the start of the year as Democrats called for Republicans to provide a vote count -- something they resisted doing as late as Wednesday.

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