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Senate Committee Gives Early Approval to $15 Billion Infrastructure Plan

Politics

Senate Committee Gives Early Approval to $15 Billion Infrastructure Plan

As the Washington State has been experiencing a rising need of infrastructure upgrade, a major State Senate committee has approved on Wednesday a transportation package worth of $15 billion. The plan aims at maintaining and widening highways, fixing culverts that impede fish passage, electrifying ferries and partially funding a replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge between Vancouver and Portland. The vote comes in the period of heavy contention between the pattern of taxation, expenditure on infrastructure and climate change.

The proposal has been sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens and the bill will give back door entry to the carbon tax, as the funding will heavily depend on a carbon fee, which is opposed by business interests. The $15 billion package includes culverts, and it would address an environmental need for salmon recovery.

The bill also talks of charging developers’ fees and extending a measure that may not encourage the state to adopt a low carbon fuel standard.

However, the bill has not been finalized, Hobbs said. The bill would now move to another Senate committee prior to full Senate vote. It will have to face House deliberations as well, and it is unclear whether the lawmakers there would allow this to advance or not.

The legislature is scheduled to be meeting until late April, but conventionally no transportation package has passed in the House without a year of legislative debate. It took more than a year to pass the $16 billion package in 2015.

Hobbs new package will be funded mainly on three things, a carbon fee, a six-cent increase in the gas tax and impact fees on developers. As per the initial plan, the carbon fee would be $15 per metric ton of carbon pollution on the sale and use of fossil fuels in Washington which would be 15 cents per gallon for gas customers. Utilities would be made to pay $10 per metric ton.

As per the bill, impact fees will be charged on new constructions, and it would be depended on the rates of residential, commercial and manufacturing projects. It also has a smattering of smaller funding sources and a 50 percent per trip fee on taxis and cab aggregator services like Uber and Lyft.

The proposal includes various projects to be undertaken. They are I-5 bridge replacement of around $3.2 billion, fish-passage-barrier removal of about $3.5 billion, a rebuild of the aging trestle on westbound Highway 2 costing around $1.6 billion and $1.7 billion worth of ferry vessel and terminal projects.

It should be noted that the Highway 2 trestle is in Hobbs’ district. He also has focused on the bill the need for complying with the federal court order that orders Washington State to fix culverts that block fish passage.

“This is a ticking time bomb,” Hobbs said Wednesday. “Remember McCleary? We just kept on punting and punting and punting. That’s a tradition here. So I’m hoping to address it now.”

The proposal has not left Seattle’s upgrade in its purview. It would fund $29 million to the Aurora Bridge for safety improvements.

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