Bridge bills moving forward

With less than a month to go before the end of the current Legislative session, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) is busy pushing his bills into the middle of the legislative spotlight.

The first of two Kilmer-sponsored bills relating to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Project — House Bill (HB) 1865 — would eliminate the collection of the state sales tax on construction of the new Narrows Bridge.

The proposal, which could shave $45 million off the cost of the bridge for the benefit of future tollpayers, passed out of the Senate Ways & Means Committee on Monday and is currently on its way to being passed out of the Senate. However, some 26th District residents think lawmakers can do more.

“Relieving us of $50 million in state sales tax is insufficient,” said Gig Harbor resident and longtime bridge opponent Randy Boss. “Being a new legislator in our district, (Kilmer) has done his job in moving the bill forward. However, (HB 1865) is the crumbs when we should be going after the loaf.”

Boss said it’s unfair for the Legislature to raise gas taxes around the state to pay for the new Alaskan Way Viaduct and modifications to the 520 Bridge in Seattle.

Boss said respects Kilmer and likes what he’s been able to do as a freshman legislator, but that he, Rep. Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor) and Sen. Bon Oke (R-Port Orchard) should be trying to get $800 million from the $9.1 billion the Legislature will receive from the gas tax to pay off the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Project.

“Less than 10 percent is the fair thing to do,” Boss said. “They need to make it fair, statewide and equitable for everybody.”

Kilmer seems to agree.

“First,” he said. “there are real equity problems when the Narrows Bridge is being paid for almost entirely by tolls and yet people who use the other ‘mega-projects’ won’t face such an enormous burden. At nearly every Transportation Committee budget hearing we have, I make the point of asking that tolls be used on other projects — not just on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.”

Kilmer’s second bridge-related bill (HB 1864) would guarantee stronger representation for those most affected by the bridge on the citizen committee that will advise on future toll collections.

It also allows the committee to consider discounts to frequent users, senior citizens, or students. The bill passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee last week.

“This is really a non-issue bill,” Boss said. “It’s only an advisory. We had an advisory vote on the project and 80 percent voted against it, but they said ‘Well, it’s only advisory.’ Besides, we have to pay $100 million a year, someway, somehow. If you give discounts, someone else is going to have to pay more.”

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