‘Heavy Lift’ Gas Tax Vote In Washington Legislature Breeds Partisan Mistrust

By Austin Jenkins

The debate over a gas tax hike has revved up again in the Washington legislature. A key Senate Republican formally introduced legislation Monday to raise the gas tax by eleven-and-a-half cents to fund road projects. But Democrats are reacting warily.

The latest plan from Republican state Senator Curtis King still spends about $12B to maintain and preserve existing roads, build and complete new projects and pay for other transportation priorities. But it includes some concessions to Democrats, including more money for transit. Still Senate Democrats don’t like the details. They also question if King has enough Republican votes to pass a gas tax hike even with Democrats on board. Sharon Nelson is the Senate Democratic leader. She says minority Democrats don’t want to take that vote alone.

Sharon Nelson: “If the Democrats are going to take a heavy lift on gas tax we want to know that the majority is going to do that as well.”

King responds that he can deliver 14 votes if Democrats will lend the rest. Time is running out for lawmakers to bridge this partisan distrust, not to mention their policy differences. The Washington legislature is scheduled to adjourn in less than two weeks.

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