Democrats in the Washington State House are proposing to pay for transportation improvements partly by raising the gas tax by 18 cents. (Sound Publishing file photo)

Democrats in the Washington State House are proposing to pay for transportation improvements partly by raising the gas tax by 18 cents. (Sound Publishing file photo)

House Democrats lay out massive $26B transportation package funded by gas tax hike

An 18-cent gas tax increase and a fee on carbon emissions would fund new roads and more.

Washington State House Democrats on Jan. 19 unveiled an ambitious 16-year, $25.8 billion package of transportation improvements statewide paid for with an 18-cent hike in the gas tax and a new fee on carbon emissions.

Democratic Rep. Jake Fey of Tacoma said the proposal is “much more substantial than any in state history” because money is needed to cover the cost of major projects, such as replacing the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River in Vancouver and removing state-owned culverts that are blocking fish passage, as required by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Fey, who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee, also said that nearly half the money raised would go to maintaining and preserving local roads and state highways and new capital projects that lawmakers will determine as the legislation moves along.

An estimated $3.5 billion would be earmarked for culverts. And, Fey said, there will be a focus on equity by targeting spending toward disadvantaged communities while working to bolster the number of contracts issued to minority and women-owned businesses.

“This is a high-water mark. It says this is the direction House Democrats want to go,” Fey said in an interview.

As outlined Jan. 19, $17.6 billion would come largely from the gas tax increase — to be imposed over the next two years and indexed for inflation going forward — and $8.2 billion would come from the carbon fee. That fee would start at $15 per metric ton of emissions, rising to $20 in the next biennium and $25 in the 2025-27 budget cycle. Diesel fuel taxes will rise 21 cents per gallon under the plan.

Hiking the fuel tax up front will enable the state to finance the investments without issuing bonds, Fey said.

“We are really committed to moving a transportation package and getting it to the governor’s desk for signing,” said House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma. “I think this moves the ball down the field well.”

A different though familiar approach is expected to emerge in the Senate as early as next week.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, Democrat of Lake Stevens and chairman of the chamber’s transportation committee, said he’ll soon roll out a plan similar to the 15-year, $17 billion package he’s pushed the past two sessions.

This plan, which he calls “Forward Washington,” raises money from a gas tax hike, plus either a flat fee on carbon emissions or a cap-and-invest system. This proposal has garnered little legislative traction in the past and no support from the governor.

In the 2020 session, 32 House Democrats told Hobbs and Fey that they viewed passage of a clean fuel standard as a precondition to the passage of any transportation revenue package.

House Democrats passed bills establishing a low carbon fuel standard in each of the past two session but Hobbs bottled them up in his committee. House Democrats are working quickly to send the bill to the Senate again this session.

The fuel standard and road package “belong together,” Fey said Tuesday.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

King County logo
Auditors find racial disparities in King County contracts

BIPOC-owned businesses earn contract bids at a much lower rate than white-owned businesses.

courtesy of Studio East
Studio East presents “Shakespeare in the Park,” as first in-person performance in 16 months

Twelfth Night – Shakespeare in the Park, Performing at Juanita Beach Park June 18-20, 2021

Artist rendering of the park (courtesy of City of Kirkland)
132nd Square Park improvements to begin construction in July

The $8.35 million project will add new park amenities and surface water improvements.

Graphic rendering of ADU design used for Renton’s Permit Ready Accessory Dwelling Unit program (courtesy of City of Renton)
Backyard cottages might offer a partial solution to King County’s housing problem

Some cities are embracing the solution better than others.

Flames attack the hillside in Bonney Lake on Sept. 8, 2020. (East Pierce Fire & Rescue photo)
WA firefighters brace for potentially busy weekend

Washington state Department of Natural Resources firefighters were preparing for what could… Continue reading

Kathy Lambert (courtesy of kathylambert.com)
King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert announces campaign for re-election

Editor’s note: This is a press release from the candidate’s campaign.

Jeff Duchin, Seattle - King County Public Health officer, said when considering whether to wear a mask indoors in public spaces, people should understand their risk based on local coronavirus activity and make decisions based on their own risk tolerance. (Getty images)
Should you keep masking up if you’re vaccinated?

Think about it, says King County’s top doctor.

Courtesy of the Washington State Department of Health
Inslee sets June 30 target for Washington to fully reopen

Meanwhile, fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks in most places, the federal CDC said.

Matt Marshall, leader of the Washington Three Percenters gun rights group, addresses a crowd rallying for Second Amendment rights Jan. 17, 2020, at the state Capitol in Olympia. File photo
Open-carry of weapons now illegal at state Capitol, rallies

A new law bars people from carrying guns within 250 feet of a permitted demonstration.

(Pixabay.com)
As rates of stoned drivers increase, law enforcement face challenges

WSP trooper said a THC breathalyzer would be a “game changer” for law enforcement and courts.

E. coli. Photo courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration
Seven King County children sickened with E. coli

Seven children in King County have been infected with E. coli, a… Continue reading