Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We have recently passed our first major legislative deadline of the 105-day session, the policy committee cutoff date was last Friday. A lot of bills are technically “dead” for the remainder of session. To see our House Republican “Good Bill/Bad Bill” list that shows which bills are alive and which are dead, click here.
House Democrats propose 10-cent gas tax
The issue getting the most attention in Olympia lately is the House Democrats 10-cent per gallon gas tax proposal. If this proposal becomes a reality, drivers in Washington would pay the highest gas tax in the nation at nearly 48-cents-per-gallon. When you include federal taxes, drivers in our state would pay 66 cents in state and federal taxes for every gallon of gas they purchase.
**Take a survey here to share your opinion on the gas tax proposal.** You can also leave a comment.
I understand the importance good roads and good bridges play in maintaining a vibrant economy. We all want Snoqualmie Pass to be open year round. However, before we even consider giving the government an additional $6 billion, we should make sure they are spending the money they already have in a responsible manner. Given our sluggish economy, the transportation debate must begin with reforms, not tax increases. We need to fix our transportation system. In fact, let's fix it before we fund it! There are a handful of reforms the Legislature can make this session.
- Streamline the permitting process – permitting is an important part of environmental stewardship, but it can result in expensive and unnecessary delays that do nothing to protect the environment. Last year, the Legislature gave the go-ahead for construction on the 520 Bridge despite five pending appeals to the Shorelines Hearings Board. Had the Legislature not intervened, the cost of project delays could have been up to $165 million.
- Exempt transportation projects from state sales taxes – Why is the state paying sales taxes from the state's transportation budget right into the operating budget to fund government programs that have nothing to do with transportation? In 2010, WSDOT spent $62 million on sales taxes for capital construction projects.
- Improve citizen oversight of Sound Transit – This reform actually comes from a recent state auditor recommendation. Sound Transit's current board is appointed and not subjected to elected leadership. This will improve public input and accountability for our state's largest transit agency.
- Make traffic-congestion relief one of the state's transportation policy goals – Currently the state recognizes economic vitality, preservation, safety, mobility, environment and stewardship as goals – but not congestion relief. This is a common sense reform. Traffic congestion should be near the top, if not the top priority, when it comes to transportation goals. We need to have free-flowing traffic for commuters, freight mobility, transit and emergency vehicles.
I hope we adopt these reforms before we even consider giving the state new tax revenue.
Keep in mind the transportation package just isn't about an increase in the gas tax. The House Democrat proposal also calls for:
- a .7 percent increase in the motor vehicle excise tax ($140 increase in license fees for a $20,000 automobile);
- a .3 percent increase in the Hazardous Substance Tax (impacts farmers);
- a 15 percent increase in the Commercial Gross Weight Fee; and
- $5 increase in registration and a $12 increase in title transfers in the county auditor licensing fees.
Protect Rural Washington and Reform the Growth Management Act
The proposed transportation package ties right into what House Republicans have been saying on improving economic development and job creation. House Democrats want to raise gas taxes, which disproportionately impact rural residents who have further to drive for essential trips, such as to the grocery store, the doctor or schools. Even more importantly, many people in rural areas are commuting to work because growth management laws have restricted economic development in areas where we live.
House Republicans have tried to directly improve the economic situation in more of economically depressed counties. Part of our jobs agenda relates directly to the GMA.
- House Bill 1619 – would suspend GMA requirements in counties with significant and persistent unemployment – Alleviate the cost and encumbrance of controlling growth when none is occurring and when those regulations stand in the way of badly needed economic development.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns on the legislation or issues before us. Also, if you are having any problems or need some assistance with a state agency or issue, let me know and I will work to help you navigate through the bureaucracy.
It is an honor and a privilege to represent you in Olympia.