‘We’re basically starving transportation’ at the state level

(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The Senate Freedom Caucus in Washington state, made up of four Republican senators, unveiled a transportation funding proposal that is supposed to be sustainable and taxpayer friendly. It argues that getting a transportation project shouldn’t require a tax package to go along with it.

“This is not a new idea. I actually ran this same bill or a very similar bill 22 years ago when I said,’ You know, in the future, people are going to buy more fuel efficient cars, going to buy more electric cars. The gas tax revenue is going to flatten out,” state Senator Phil Fortunato (Republican from Auburn) told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “We need to have an inflation linked funding source. Otherwise, we’re going to constantly have to keep raising taxes.”

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“And that funding source was the existing sales tax on motor vehicles. So when you buy a car, you pay sales tax. That state portion — 6.5% — will now go into the gas tax account. Now, if you did that, you would have an inflation linked funding source because cars cost more money. When I ran the existing bill 22 years ago, it was $512 million per biennium, now it’s $2.3 billion per biennium, but the sales tax rate stayed the same.”

Fortunato says the state is not in as bad of shape as previously thought on an income level, but argues that various proposals being considered will ultimately take money out of the economy.

“The surprising thing was the rebounding of Washington’s economy even with this COVID stuff going on. We were projecting six and $7 billion shortfalls, and now we’re basically even, and we’re getting this bonus money from the feds … So we’re actually not in that bad of a shape as a state on the income level, but the problem that you have is every one of these other proposals all takes money out of the economy,” he said.

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“Some of the mayors came in, for example, came in and they testified, ‘Oh we want this package because there is a project package.’ But that project package also goes with it a tax package. So for years, we have been sold a bill of goods that in order to get a transportation project, you need to have a tax package to go along with it. And I disagree with that.”

He believes that we’re are essentially starving transportation and that none of the tax packages are sustainable long-term.

“What are we paying for now? I mean, transportation is the lifeblood of our economy. We need to have this transportation for jobs and to get people home and and be able to sell more stuff–we’re an import export state. We need to get things to and from the ports. And we’re basically starving transportation. I mean, we’re looking for change in the couch cushions to fund transportation. It’s stupid,” he said.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here