Port opposes repeal of new gas tax

The Port of Bremerton Board of Commissioners passed a resolution last week denouncing Initiative 912, expressing concern that repealing the latest state gas tax would cripple or kill nearly all the state’s transportation projects.

“We are urging people to vote no,” said port board president Bill Mahan. “Should this initiative pass, the state will have no money for projects, especially the ones we’re interested in.”

The resolution — approved by commissioners Mahan and Mary Ann Huntington in Cheryl Kincer’s absence — states that if I-912 were to pass, the recently implemented 9.5 cent gas tax would disappear, and with it most of the money needed for state transportation improvements.

“Passage of the initiative would reduce ... revenue for needed state transportation projects from $5.5 billion dollars to approximately $1.1 billion, thereby eliminating over 270 planned projects throughout the state, including projects for Mason and Kitsap Counties,” the resolution states.

Several high-profile projects would be affected, such as the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle. But according to the port, the loss of funding will also prevent “essential transportation capacity and safety improvements throughout the state and specifically those necessary for the economic development of Kitsap and Mason Counties and the Port of Bremerton.”

Mahan said he and the rest of port’s board and staff were concerned that if the state’s funds were limited by passage of I-912, the majority of the money it does have will be taken up by projects like the viaduct, leaving little, if anything, left over for local corridors.

“This whole issue is crucial to the port and crucial to success of the South Kitsap Industrial Area,” Mahan said. “Until the state takes care of its top priorities, like the viaduct, our priorities are not going to be addressed.”

Mahan said the resolution was suggested by concerned members of the port staff, who became particularly worried after meeting with officials from the state Department of Transportation.

“We were discussing funding for local corridors such as state-routes 16 and 3, and we were told that should I-912 pass, the state will have no money for many projects, including ones like the Burley-Olalla overpass,” Mahan said, explaining that he understood that even projects currently funded by the state’s Nickel Package might be in jeopardy.

“The whole Nickel Package might be revisited,” he said, “and that money redirected. We have a lot more to worry about than this 9.5-cent gas tax, including projects that people think are already funded.”

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