This morning The Olympia Report ran a story on the newly-unveiled $9.8 billion Senate Transportation Budget, which includes an $800,000 increase over the last budget. It differs from the House version in that it doesn't include a gas tax increase, but according to the Committee Chair, that's not because she didn't want one.
“The truth of the matter is, we didn’t have the votes,” she said. “We need to get the economy a little stronger before we ask for new revenue.” Haugen added, “Within the next two years we absolutely need to go out and ask for a new gas tax. We don’t want to do that, but we’re really lacking a partner in the federal government, so we’re going to have to be more bold.”
Here's another bold idea. Why don't we repeal (or at least scale back) Washington's prevailing wage law before we ask voters for more taxes? Our recent study showed that approximately five cents of tax from every gallon of gas goes to pay for artificially inflated wages.
Repealing the law would be like a new nickel package at no cost to taxpayers, workers would still get paid a market wage, and we'd get more transportation projects done at lower cost. One other side note on the transportation package: the Senate version appropriates $85.2 million for Washington's share of the "pre-engineering" for the new Columbia River Crossing bridge. But maybe the committee should investigate allegations of shady accounting surrounding the bridge first, like why DOT can't account for $14 million of what they've already spent on the project.