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Councilman after gas tax hike to fund county road projects

Metropolitan King County Councilmember Dwight Pelz last week introduced legislation calling for a November vote on a 2.8 cent per gallon local option gas tax to fund transportation improvements throughout King County and its cities.

"Ever since voters passed Initiatives 695 and 776, eliminating our local vehicle taxes and reducing revenue for roads projects, King County and its cities have been fighting an uphill battle to meet our local transportation needs," Pelz said. "We simply do not have the money we need to fix or maintain our aging local streets, roads, and bridges. It's time to see if the people of this region are willing to pay what's necessary to ensure that our transportation lifelines remain strong, because the longer we delay, the more our infrastructure will decay. We either maintain these investments today or replace them tomorrow at a much higher cost."

King County and its jurisdictions claim to have lost more than $55 million in annual revenues due to initiatives and judicial actions. King County deferred critical capacity projects and scaled back many of its capital programs.

The state gas tax is now 28 cents, but the county has the authority to raise it 10 percent, or 2.8 cents, which would make it 30.8 cents a gallon in King County.

Raising the gas tax 2.8 cents per gallon is projected to generate $27 million annually for King County and its cities. The funding, allocated among the jurisdictions based on population, would generate $7.3 million for King County, $8 million for Seattle, and another $12 million for the remaining cities.

"The Legislature has given us this tool of asking voters to raise the gas tax locally to fix and maintain our roads, but for King County and many of our cities this is just a down payment on the larger costs of restoring our local streets," Pelz said. "We have to hope that the state or federal government also step up this year and in the years ahead. There is growing consensus among the cities in King County to seek local option revenues to invest in infrastructure. I will be asking mayors and councils of our 39 cities for their suggestions and support for this measure."

If approved by the Council, the ordinance would put the gas tax measure on the ballot Nov. 8, and create committees to write the voters' pamphlet statements for and against the measure.

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