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After more than two years of negotiations, the Democrat-led House and Republican-led Senate reached agreement on a new transportation package this month. Business and labor leaders strongly backed the package, which will eventually raise gas taxes by 11.9 cents a gallon.

Like all state transportation packages, the projects are spread around to attract more legislative votes. Most agree, though, that the projects funded will help the economy and shorten commutes. They include:

  • Finishing the North Spokane Corridor to I-90
  • Easing traffic backups at Joint Base Lewis-McChord
  • Connecting the Port of Tacoma to SR 167
  • Improving I-405
  • Finishing the 520 bridge project on the Seattle side

Package prevents exec. order on LCFS
One of the most contentious parts of the package for House Democrats was the “poison pill” insisted on by Senate Republicans that prevents Gov. Jay Inslee from instituting a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) by executive order. Inslee made no secret that he wanted an LCFS. Opponents to the idea say LCFS programs are environmentally ineffective and raise gas prices with little to show in benefits.

While the provision prevents singular action by Inslee, the Legislature could still pass an LCFS, though in its current makeup that is a remote possibility. But in a state with direct democracy via initiatives, the voters can pass any law themselves, same as the Legislature.

Will supporters try an initiative?
That has some wondering if supporters will try to place an LCFS initiative on the ballot. Already, an environmental group is trying to place a revenue-neutral carbon tax on the ballot next year. In the past, environmental initiatives have done well on the ballot, including the anti-nuclear waste I-297 (which was thrown out by the courts) in 2004 and 2006’s renewable energy initiative, I-937.

Of course, those initiatives weren’t perceived to have a direct, immediate cost to consumers. Opponents of an LCFS would be sure Washington voters knew an LCFS program would cost them money. That factor could have LCFS supporters wondering if a ballot initiative is such a good idea.


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