House Democrats propose ambitious transportation plan, including 18 cent gas tax increase and carbon fee.

House Transportation Committee chair Jack Fey has unveiled  an ambitious transportation investment package. (The link takes you to the LEAP documents detailing the investments and revenues.) 

The Seattle Times reports key features of the plan, including an 18-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase phased in over two years.

Washington state drivers could wind up paying $1 per gallon for fuel taxes if lawmakers approve an 18-cent gas tax boost and carbon fees proposed Tuesday by state House Democrats.

The $27 billion, 16-year program would invest more in maintenance than previous statewide packages did. It would fund replacement of fish-blocking road culverts and the electrification of diesel ferries, a top priority for Gov. Jay Inslee.

Fey is quoted:

“There’s no good time,” said Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, who chairs the House Transportation Committee.

Fey said a dip in state income poses a risk of cutting road projects. “We knew going into this, that doing nothing was not an option,” he said.

The gas tax increase is not the only element of the package that would impact fuel costs.

A total 18-cent gas tax increase phased over two years, along with existing state and federal rates, would raise the total to 85.4 cents per gallon, the highest in the U.S. (Diesel would be taxed 3 cents a gallon more.)

A fee of $15 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted, if passed from companies to motorists, might add another 15 cents per gallon. Carbon fees would begin in 2023, escalate to $20 per ton in two years, then $25 two years after that.

There’s no question that transportation funding is a priority this year. Last week we noted a letter signed by more than 100 organizations urging increased infrastructure investments. They wrote,

Based on the most recent revenue forecast, the State’s Transportation budget has a projected shortfall of $758 million for the next three years. To address that issue, to support the full reopening of our economy as well as spur economic activity and support local jobs, we urge the Legislature to pass a comprehensive transportation funding package in 2021.

So far, the Republican lead on the committee, Rep. Andrew Barkis, is not on board with the proposal, the ST reports. Yet.

But Barkis also said late Tuesday his relationship with Fey is good, so he’ll look for areas to compromise.

The coalition letter to lawmakers said,

We understand that new revenue streams will likely be necessary in any new transportation package. We look forward to working through these options with you.

With the House proposal, the conversation has begun.