Backers of gas tax rally at Capitol

May 20, 2013

Pressure is mounting on Washington state lawmakers to approve a gas tax increase to fund road projects. Backers of the 10-cents-per-gallon tax proposal rallied at the state Capitol Monday to push for a vote during the current 30-day overtime session.

Dozens in hard hats gathered on the steps of the Capitol, holding signs and chanting: “Pass it now! Pass it now!”

“Pass it now” refers to a proposed $8 billion transportation funding package. It has the backing of Gov. Jay Inslee and a coalition of business, labor and environmental groups. The tax hike would fund a slate of new road projects including a freeway extension to the Port of Tacoma, the North Spokane corridor and, potentially, a new bridge over the Columbia River.

Senate Transportation co-chair Tracey Eide, a Democrat, highlighted that last project in her speech to the crowd.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot afford to not build this bridge. We need to build it,” Eide said.

But the Columbia River Crossing, as the project is called, has fierce critics. That controversy alone could derail the push for a transportation funding package. Nearly a decade has passed since the last gas tax hike passed in Washington.