Democrats pass partisan transportation package with fee and tax increases

Democrats unveiled their Move Ahead Washington transportation package In the middle of the 2022 legislative session, without consulting Republicans. The majority party’s initial package included a controversial export fuel tax which drew strong opposition from Republicans in the Legislature and state lawmakers and governors from other states. Facing pressure, Democrats removed this controversial funding source and opted instead to raid the Public Works Assistance Account. The majority party kept other fee and tax increases (learn more here) in their proposal.

The debate

Senate Bill 5974 (transportation resources) and Senate Bill 5975 (additive transportation funding and appropriations) passed the House on March 1, 2022, following lengthy floor debates that ended just before midnight. House Republicans opposed both bills, arguing that the Democrats’ $17 billion, 16-year transportation package raises fees on Washingtonians, ignores many parts of the state, does not prioritize preservation and maintenance, and raids the important Public Works Assistance Account. You can watch House Republican floor debate highlights on Senate Bill 5974 here:

Republicans offer alternative transportation solutions

House Republicans, under the leadership of Rep. Andrew Barkis, offered a set of comprehensive transportation solutions (see below) prior to the 2022 legislative session. The House Republican plan did not include any fee or tax increases.

Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Curtis King, unveiled a state transportation-funding plan free of tax or fee increases on March 1, 2022.

Republican transportation leaders released statements just prior to final passage of Move Ahead Washington.

Republicans from both chambers had solutions that wouldn’t raise taxes and fees on anyone or anything. Given the historic revenue the state is experiencing, we could’ve built a bipartisan package that provided relief to the taxpayers. With existing revenue, we could’ve funded new innovations for our transportation system, while keeping our promise to complete projects already on the books. I’m extremely disappointed the process was partisan and does not reflect the true transportation needs of every corner of our state. Washingtonians deserve real solutions from their transportation leaders and tax dollars.

—Rep. Andrew Barkis, Ranking Member, House Transportation Committee

House Republican transportation solutions influence Democrats

The last three transportation packages passed by the Legislature were bipartisan efforts that included input from Republicans and Democrats from across the state. That didn’t happen in the 2022 legislative session. While Republicans were not consulted or part of negotiations, the majority party did glean concepts from legislation introduced by House Republicans. Tap or click each “impact” statement below to see how House Republican transportation solutions influenced Democrats.

  • House Bill 1603: REAL Act – Shifts specified transportation programs to be paid for by the general fund starting in 2025. HB 1603 impact
    Move Ahead Washington included components of this bill, such as using $80 million from the general fund for tax incentives on alternative fuel vehicles and the commute trip reduction credits.
  • House Bill 1604: Directs state sales tax paid on motor vehicles to preservation and maintenance of the existing transportation system.HB 1604 impact
    Move Ahead Washington included a one-time transfer of $2 billion from the general fund.
  • House Bill 1605: Creates a program at WSDOT to implement rural safety lane departure improvements.HB 1605 impact
    Move Ahead Washington incorporated this policy completely and provided initial funding of $20 million.
  • House Bill 1606: Recognizes fish passage barrier projects as inherently correcting environmental justice concerns without further review and process.
  • House Bill 1607: Investigates a shift of the Safe Routes to School program to OSPI with direction to better coordinate funding for safe pathways to new schools.
  • House Bill 1608: Directs the executive branch to address barriers to recruitment for Washington State Ferries in future collective bargaining agreements.
  • House Bill 1249: Transfers sales tax paid on transportation projects to the transportation budget.HB 1249 impact
    Move Ahead Washington assumes $403 million in revenues from sales tax paid on Move Ahead Washington projects.
  • House Bill 1528: Puts a pause on the commute trip reduction program in light of COVID-19.

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