Opinion

Editorial

The gas tax cometh

If you’ve been watching the steady climb of gasoline prices, you may have missed the latest boost by the state to the gas tax. Effect July 1, the state added the final 1.5-cent increase from the 2005 transportation revenue package passed by the Legislature.

But before you scream about adding insult to injury, take a moment to see where that money has gone. The Washington State Department of Transportation is more than half-way to completing the nearly 400 projects funded with 2003 and 2005 transportation revenue increases.

As of June 30, WSDOT has successfully delivered 148 of the 391 projects funded by the tax boosts.

From March to June alone, WSDOT has completed 19 projects, including the widening of I-405 through Kirkland.

The state notes that the 129 projects completed as of March 2008 were collectively delivered for almost $6 million less than the $1.3 billion legislative budget expectation. Percentage-wise that may not be much (it’s a bit under .005 percent), but it beats the opposite.

Also of note, 91 percent of individual projects were delivered early or on time and 84 percent were on or under budget.

Doing the projects costs money, and that means taxes. This most recent 1.5-cent increase will raise the typical fuel bill by $9 per year per vehicle. Not much, all things considered.

Of course, $9 isn’t the full tab. We’ve been paying higher state gasoline taxes since July 1, 2003.

Depending on the mileage your vehicle gets, here’s how it breaks down (assuming 12,000 miles of driving per year):

MPG 30 20 10

7-1-0 5¢ $20 $30 $60

7-1-05 3¢ $12 $18 $36

7-1-06 3¢ $12 $18 $36

7-1-07 2¢ $8 $12 $24

7-1-08 1.5¢ $6 $9 $18

Add these together and it looks like this:

Subtotal 14.5¢ $58 $87 $174

But wait. There’s more. We already were paying 23¢ a gallon. So let’s figure that.

Existing

tax 23¢ $92 $138 $276

Total 37.5¢ $150 $225 $450

Those taxes will continue to provide value. There are 85 projects funded from the 2003 and 2005 revenue packages that are either under construction or advertised for construction. In the coming six months 18 projects valued at approximately $836 million are scheduled to advertise. More than 40 additional projects will be advertised for construction within the next year.

No one likes paying more for gasoline. But, unlike the escalating costs imposed by the oil companies, we actually get something for our gas tax money. Try to remember that the next time you fill up.

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