The state senate transportation committee passed a bill today that would challenge longstanding precedent (and the often-cited 18th amendment of the state constitution) against using gas taxes for transit.
Another longstanding precedent that would go out the window? The GOP's adamant stand against violating the rule.
The bill is being sponsored by antitax hardliner, state senator Doug Ericksen (R-42, Ferndale); Ericksen, for example, cosponsored a bill earlier this session that overruled the supreme court decision against the two-thirds-to-raise-taxes rule.
But now, his gas tax bill authorizes a $0.01per gallon fuel tax if approved by a majority of the voters within in 10 miles of an international border for "transportation improvements, including high capacity transportation, public transportation, and the operation of facilities or programs."
Previously, the tax only applied to traditional uses like road construction.
Ericksen's got a good reason. He wants to spend the gas tax money on school buses in Point Roberts, a town in the Northwestern part of his Whatcom County district. The bill is possible because a recent supreme court decision loosened restrictions on gas taxes. This is the first time the legislature has taken adavnatage of the new possibility.
The bill passed today with enthusiastic (and some sarcastic) support from the Democrats on the transportation committee.
"I was going to propose an amendment to expand it to within 200 miles of a border town so that we could make these kinds of investments in Sound Transit."—Sarcastic State Senator Marko LiiasState senator Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens): "This is a clear signal that both parties support multimodal transit investments." ("We do what we can," Republican committee chair senator Curtis King, R-14, Yakima, quipped back.)
State senator Marko Liias (D-21, Mukilteo): "I am thrilled at the commitment to multimodal and mass transit. I was going to propose an amendment to expand it to within 200 miles of a border town so that we could make these kinds of investments in Sound Transit."
State senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, SE Seattle): "I hope we pass more of these bills for this type of transit in our urban areas for things like Sound Transit."
Touché. Touché. Touché.
I have a call in to Senator Ericksen.