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Washington Senate approves $16.1 billion transportation package with increase in gas tax

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OLYMPIA, Washington — The Senate on Monday passed a $16.1 billion transportation revenue package that includes an 11.9-cent gas tax increase that would be phased in over two years.

The chamber passed the revenue bill on a 39-9 vote and it now heads to the House, which is expected to vote on it Tuesday. The Senate also passed a bonding bill tied to the package, but wasn't expected to vote on a spending bill that designates the money to specific projects until Tuesday.

Details on the 16-year package were released Monday afternoon, a day after House and Senate transportation leaders said they had reached a bipartisan agreement after months of negotiations.

PHOTO: Democratic House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, center, talks with Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Curtis King, right, and Democratic Sen. Marko Liias, Monday, June 29, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. Clibborn and King say they've reached agreement on a transportation revenue package that includes an incremental a gas tax increase. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
Democratic House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, center, talks with Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Curtis King, right, and Democratic Sen. Marko Liias, Monday, June 29, 2015, in Olympia, Wash. Clibborn and King say they've reached agreement on a transportation revenue package that includes an incremental a gas tax increase. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

The plan would increase the gas tax in two stages: a 7-cent increase on Aug. 1 and a 4.9-cent increase on July 1, 2016. The plan spends $8.8 billion on state and local road projects and $1.4 billion on maintenance and preservation. Another $1 billion would be spent on non-highway projects, like bike paths, pedestrian walkways and transit. It also would allow Sound Transit to ask voters to pay for potential expansions of its rail line.

The headway in negotiations between the chambers came after Gov. Jay Inslee said he would sign any ultimate deal, even if it includes language that Inslee opposed related to a low-carbon fuel standard, which had been a major point of contention in the negotiations.

If that standard is ultimately adopted, all fee-based money going toward transit and bike paths would instead be moved into the main transportation account. Unlike the previous Senate proposal, which had that requirement for the full 16 years, the new plan only has that contingency through 2023.

In a news release sent Sunday morning, Inslee wrote that even though the current bill "has a poison pill that pits clean air against transit," lawmakers have told him it's necessary in order to pass the package and he's promised to sign the bill "because of the jobs, safety improvements and traffic relief that the investments would provide."

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