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

Mar 3, 2014

The debate over a gas tax hike has revved up again in the state Legislature. A key Senate Republican formally introduced legislation Monday to raise the gas tax by 11.5 cents to fund road projects. But Democrats are reacting warily.

The latest plan Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, still spends about $12 billion 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, the Senate Democratic leader, says minority Democrats don’t want to take that vote alone.

“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,” said Nelson, D-Maury Island.

In response, King says 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.