The Washington state Legislature voted July 1 to approve over $1 billion annually in new revenue for the state’s transportation infrastructure. The plan includes an 11.9 cents-per-gallon gas tax increase—gradually implemented beginning August 1 and fully applied on July 1, 2016—and an increase in transportation-related fees, including those for overweight vehicles. The bill will also permit Sound Transit residents to vote on a plan to increase taxes for an additional $15 billion in order to expand the region’s light rail system.
The legislation designates $8.8 billion to state and local road projects, $1 billion to non-highway projects—such as bike paths, pedestrian walkways, and transit—and $1.4 billion to maintenance and preservation.
After months of debate, a transportation funding compromise was announced by legislative leaders at the beginning of the state’s third special session on June 28. The deal—Senate Bill 5987—was subsequently passed by the Senate on June 29 with a vote of 39-9. House lawmakers began considering the bill on June 30, with a floor amendment adopted and the bill passed 54-44 in the early hours of July 1. The Senate returned and promptly approved the bill with the House’s amendment 37-7.
In addition to SB 5987, the Senate has also voted 40-7 to approve Senate Bill 5989, authorizing $5.3 million in General Obligation bonds for transportation projects. This bill is currently pending a second reading in the House.
SB 5987 now goes to the desk of Governor Jay Inslee (D) for approval. Governor Inslee stated his intent to sign the bill into law in a June 28 news release.
Washington is now the seventh state in 2015 to increase their state gas tax, joining Idaho, Iowa, Georgia, South Dakota, Utah, and Nebraska. SB 5987 is the largest gas tax increase in Washington state’s history, and the first since it was increased to 37.5 cents-per-gallon a decade ago.