By Stevie Mathieu, February 20, 2013, The Columbian
The $450 million in Washington state dollars that Columbia River Crossing planners are banking on is included in a transportation revenue package proposed by House Democrats today.
Their package would raise $9.8 billion during the next decade with the help of a 10-cent gas tax increase, a new annual car tab fee based on 0.7 percent of a vehicle’s value, and more than $3 billion in new bonds.
The nearly $10 billion will help pay for several of the state’s megaprojects, including the North Spokane Corridor, widening Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass, and connecting State Routes 167 and 512 to Interstate 5.
“The components in this 2013 transportation package are of utmost importance for every one of our Washington communities,” Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, said in a statement. “I know of Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate who support this pivotal proposal. I’m confident we can get to an agreement. We simply have to.”
The proposed $3.5 billion CRC project would replace the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River, rebuild freeway interchanges and extend a light rail line from Portland into Vancouver.
Moeller said the CRC will create jobs and help the area’s trade economy, which accounts for 40 percent of the jobs in Washington state.
The transportation package has been named Connecting Washington, and it was introduced by state Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island. She is chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee.
House Republicans bristled at the Democrats’ plan, especially at the gas tax increase.
“House Republicans understand there are maintenance demands and new projects needed in the future,” Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said in a statement. “But any debate on transportation must begin with reforms, not tax increases on struggling workers and families, and not new project lists to entice votes in the Legislature.”
Orcutt is the ranking Republican member on the House Transportation Committee.
“Before we even entertain the idea of a gas tax increase, we want to talk about transportation and economic reforms,” Orcutt said. “If the Democrats are willing to have this discussion, we are willing to work with them.”
The proposed revenue package also includes a new $25 fee on bicycles sold for at least $500, which is expected to bring in $1 million during the next 10 years.
Additionally, $900 million of the package will be raised from a 0.3 percent hike in the hazardous substance tax, and nearly $200 million will come from new county auditor fees of $5 for vehicle tab renewals and $12 for title transfers.
Besides paying for many of the state’s big transportation projects, the package would provide $1 billion to maintain infrastructure.