Some Olympia insiders think it's a done deal--the state gas tax is going up. Democrats plan to roll out a $6 billion transportation proposal next week. A number of mayors have already put it in writing: they want 8 cents more per gallon.
Transportation is where politics is very, very local. Whatever else legislators care about, each knows what transportation projects matter in his or her district. Winning funding for those projects is viewed as a test of a legislator's effectiveness and a great argument come re-election time.
There is broad agreement among the public and legislators that providing and maintaining transportation infrastructure is a legitimate government function. Yet on the question of hiking the state's ninth-highest-in-the-nation gas tax, there is sure to be debate.
There certainly should be. The state's current policies of charging state sales tax to state transportation projects, putting transportation projects through the permitting wringer, and artificially inflating labor costs with the misleading name of "prevailing wage" all needlessly drive up costs on these projects.
No one should ask taxpayers to pay more so long as these policies are on the books.