Herrera Beutler suggests strategy to avoid bridge tolling

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian)

The topic surrounding tolling the Interstate 5 and 205 is back at the forefront.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, submitted a letter to Governor Jay Inslee Wednesday about potentially delaying the WA Cares Fund collection for Oregon residents to address tolling concerns.

Oregon residents who work in Washington pay into the state’s new long-term care program and don’t receive any benefit. Workers who contribute to WA Cares can receive up to $36,500 in long-term care services beginning in 2025 if they fulfill its qualifications.

Similarly to Oregonians’ debacle, she wrote, Southwest Washington residents would have to pay to cross into Oregon without receiving direct benefits according to the state’s 2017 transportation funding plan.

In the letter, Herrera Beutler said the halt in revenue collection should last until Oregon leaders cancel plans to tax commuters on the I-5 and I-205 bridges. She emphasized the tolling prices target Washington residents who travel into the state for work.

“Like Oregonians’ critiques of the long-term care tax, Southwest Washington commuters are outraged that they will be taxed for using the same decades-old roads that exist today,” Herrera Beutler wrote.

She added that none of the collected tolls would contribute to the I-5 Bridge replacement. It would be directed to areas outside the corridor in Oregon, as well as in areas that aren’t commonly visited by Washington residents who pay tolls, Herrera Beutler wrote.

The massive project is matched with an equally huge price tag, which will draw from Oregon, Washington and federal government funds in addition to money accrued from tolls – something those leading the bridge replacement project are adamant the endeavor will need.

Clark County leaders previously contested Oregon’s intent to implement tolling on the major bridges, as have many Southwest Washington residents. This isn’t something Herrera Beutler is a stranger to, as she has criticized tolling in the past. And it isn’t the first letter she wrote to Inslee on the matter, either.

“Here is an opportunity to stand up for Washingtonians,” she wrote. “I urge you to take it.”

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker is a politics reporter for The Columbian.

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