Inslee concession on fuel standards clears way for $15B transportation package

By Jerry Cornfield
Everett Herald writer

Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday dropped his pursuit of a low carbon fuel standard aimed at reducing pollution, clearing away a final obstacle to an agreement with lawmakers on a $15 billion transportation package.

Inslee and lawmakers have been negotiating a 16-year proposal that would be paid for with a hike in the gas tax and higher registration fees for cars and trucks.

But as part of the deal, Senate Republicans have insisted that if Inslee began drafting a new fuel standard then hundreds of millions of dollars would be diverted from public transit into road projects. They contend the standard will drive up the price of gas and thus drivers should receive a greater share of the benefits in the package.

Inslee and House Democrats opposed the trigger but could not get Republicans to relent. Republicans rejected Inslee’s latest offer to delay the standard until 2018.

“The current bill has a poison pill that pits clean air against transit,” Inslee said in a statement.“I oppose that and have worked hard to find a better alternative. But legislators tell me it is essential to passing the $15 billion multi-modal transportation package and authorizing an additional $15 billion for Sound Transit light rail expansion.

“I will sign the bill even with this provision because of the jobs, safety improvements and traffic relief that the investments would provide,” he said in the statement.

Republican Sens. Curtis King of Yakima and Joe Fain of Auburn, who have led negotiations for their caucus, issued a joint statement lauding the governor’s decision.

“We appreciate the difficult decision the governor has made and applaud him for not allowing a single issue to stand in the way of achieving these important investments in Washington’s transportation future.”

Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, chairwoman for the House Transportation Committee, also issued a statement praising Inslee

“I want to commend Governor Inslee for his pragmatic leadership in reaching an agreement on the low carbon fuel standard with Senate Republicans,” she said.

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