Republicans plan to release transportation reform package Monday

From the desk of Columbian intern Lucas Wiseman:

OLYMPIA — House Republicans said in a press conference Wednesday that they will release a transportation package Monday. Unlike the House Democrat’s plan released recently, the Republican plan won’t include bills to pay for specific transportation needs, such as the Columbia River Crossing.

Rather, the Republicans’ package of bills will include ways to reduce transportation costs.

“(The Democrat’s transportation plan has) zero reforms, zero cost saving measures,” Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said. “For people to have confidence in their government, they have to see something different than… the Columbia River Crossing for us to go forward.”

Schoesler said that if conditions are right, 2013 might be the year to pass a package to pay for many of the state’s transportation priorities. But first he wants to know: “How do we reduce costs?”

House Democrats released their own transportation package a week earlier, and that package sets aside $450 million for the Columbia River Crossing.

The Democrats’ package would allocate almost $10 billion to the transportation system and is projected to create 56,000 jobs over 10 years. It would be paid for by a gas tax increase of 2 cents every year for five years, a .07 percent excise tax on vehicles, bonds, and other fees.

Republicans countered that plan by saying a gas tax pushes costs directly onto families.

“You’re going to basically make it harder for families to pay the bills, and you’re giving their hard earned money to an organization that isn’t necessarily spending money correctly,” House Republican Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, said.

DeBolt concluded the press conference by saying he would answer all specific questions on Monday with the release of the House Republicans’ transportation reform package.

You can watch the entire press conference here.

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