Last week Sen. Curtis King co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee unveiled a new transportation funding package. Sen. King was joined by several other members of the Majority Coalition Caucus in announcing the 12-year $12.29 billion proposal which includes an 11.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike.
For a summary of the Senate plan including a list of projects that would be funded by it click here.
AGC applauds Sen. King and the Coalition for creating a plan that fully funds many vital new projects and makes a priority of maintenance and prevention efforts and recognizes the significant efforts made in the House towards reaching a compromise agreement. AGC encourages all sides to restart negotiations to develop a plan that can be passed by both the House and the Senate.
The House Democrats passed a transportation package — their official starting point on negotiations — in May 2013 at $10.5 billion with a 10.5 cent gas tax increase. Sen. King and Coalition members released a plan last year as well but a vote was not taken on it in the Senate.
Since then negotiations between the Democratic-led House and the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus of 24 Republicans and two Democrats have stalled and Sen. King hopes to reinvigorate negotiations by releasing a new package that he says moves closer to the House plan in many respects. However there are significant differences to be ironed out including:
• The Senate plan transfers sales taxes on transportation projects from the state general fund back into transportation accounts about $840 million over 12 years. Sen. King believes this is in keeping with the spirit of the 18th amendment which requires gas tax funds to be spent on transportation. Democratic leaders are concerned that such a move would make it harder for the state to achieve court-mandated education funding levels.
• The Senate plan would use a portion of existing environmental clean-up funds (about $56 million) for stormwater retrofit projects that are normally funded out of transportation account. Sen. King believes this is a logical use of these funds; Democratic leaders consider it a cut to clean-up funds.
• The Senate plan includes labor reforms strongly opposed by House Democrats: 1) Changes WSDOT apprenticeship requirements from 15% to 12% and makes the apprenticeship provision apply only to projects costing $4 million or more; 2) Makes prevailing wage surveys able to be submitted electronically; 3) Requires the payment of prevailing wages to laborers and mechanics employed directly on the site of work.