Rep. Harmsworth votes ‘no’ on nearly 12-cent gas tax hike with no reforms
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Rep. Harmsworth votes 'no' on 11.7-cent gas tax, car fee hikes
with no reforms
'People want transportation improvements, but they also deserve a more accountable system'
Citing a lack of reforms and safeguards for taxpayer dollars, Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R-Mill Creek, today voted against a state transportation tax package that includes an 11.7 cent per-gallon gas-tax increase and numerous vehicle fee increases but no significant reforms to the transportation system.
The vote took place in an evening meeting of the House Transportation Committee. Harmsworth said he has heard too much opposition from constituents for him to approve the package at this time.
“People in our district absolutely want road improvements to relieve traffic congestion, and so do I,” said Harmsworth. “But they also want proof that their tax dollars won't be wasted.
“My vote today was about putting people's best interests before political expediency.”
Harmsworth said although the gas-tax legislation includes funding for two significant local road projects, the Highway 2 trestle redesign and the SR 9/Snohomish River Bridge replacement, it doesn't guarantee that new gas-tax dollars will be spent efficiently and effectively.
“As people have seen their commutes get worse and worse, they've also seen the news about Bertha being stuck in Seattle, hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns on the 520 bridge project, waste in our ferry system, and on and on,” said Harmsworth. “Public distrust in the transportation system is real, and cannot be ignored.
“Taxpayers deserve the best possible return on their investment. This package falls short. We can do better, and I think if we get serious about reforms and efficiencies people will be more inclined to invest their dollars in the transportation improvements we need.”
Harmsworth said he is still considering a “yes” vote if negotiations with the Senate result in more reforms and savings in the package. A Senate proposal to exempt projects from the state sales tax is stalled in the House Appropriations Committee; some lawmakers have also proposed putting sales tax revenues collected on projects into the transportation budget instead of the state general fund. That and other cost savings must be included in the final legislation, he said, for it to stand a chance of being accepted by the public.
During the committee meeting Harmsworth offered an amendment to send the tax package to the voters for approval, but it was rejected.
###Washington State House Republican Communications