Governor Inslee to campaign for transportation package

by: Essex Porter Updated:

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday that he'll campaign across the state to generate public support for raising transportation taxes.

"I'm going to be very active around the state in the upcoming months talking to citizens about the need for a transportation package," Inslee said.

The state Senate rejected a proposal that would have raised the gas tax by 10.5 cents over two years.

The increase would generate $10 billion to improve roads and transit, including $1 billion for maintenance.

While the Democratic majority in the House passed the transportation package, the Republican-dominated Senate refused to OK it. 

"There's enormous sums of money for bike paths and pedestrian paths, said Vancouver Republican Sen. Don Benton, "I don't know about you, but I've never seen a traffic jam on a bicycle path." 

Benton also opposed the transportation package because it also provided money for a new Columbia River Bridge that included light rail transit.

While lawmakers are not scheduled to meet until next year, King County Executive Dow Constantine says Metro will start to cut service if local option transit taxes aren't approved before then. "This cannot wait until they reconvene in January," Constantine said.

Bus riders already know what is at stake. "It really can affect us and really can hurt us if we don't have buses to get where we need to go," said Chase Smith, who commutes to work on Metro.

So far the governor is not calling for a third special session to pass a transportation package, but it's clear he wants action soon. "The earlier we can show the Boeing Company that we're going to be responsible and increase freight mobility," Inslee said, "that's going to help us win contracts."