Letter: Transportation tax brings benefits to Mid-Columbia

May 3, 2013 

One of Gov. Jay Inslee's top priorities for the special session is to increase the gas tax. We're guessing that doesn't fly for most of our readers. But maybe there is something here to consider.

First, the frustrations: Yes, it's frustrating that our state leaders have not been able to finish a budget during their regular session.

Maybe it's harder than it looks, but that is their only mandated requirement for this year's legislative session.

It is laughable (if it weren't so sad) that lawmakers have found time to rewrite state code to make it gender neutral this year, but not take care of state finances.

Let's face it, special things are not so "special" when they become routine. Maybe this should be called the "Expected Extended Session."

And we do have this foggy recollection in the back of our minds about Inslee's campaign trail. Something about not raising taxes?

Still ...

As far as the gas tax, we already have the ninth-highest gas tax in the country. Why would we want to pay more?

Actually, we don't want to pay more.

It's a universal truth that people don't like parting with their money.

However, it is also a universal truth that we need good, safe roads, bridges and transportation infrastructure.

Our livelihood depends on it.

The Port of Seattle reports that 1 in 3 jobs in Washington are tied to international trade. It's a part of the picture we probably don't see.

When we drive on the Mid-Columbia backroads and see cherries in bloom or orchards laden with apples, we probably stop short of seeing those items on a big boat headed for Asia.

Let's think locally for just a minute.

We all benefit from a robust agricultural base. Our farmers produce almost 300 kinds of crops and it is crucial to all of us that those crops get to market. In 2011, more than $15 billion worth of food and agricultural products passed through our state's ports.

And, as a quick glance at the map, there's a lot of road between Eastern Washington and the seaports. Roads that are maintained by the state's gas tax.

Roads that go two ways, we might add.

As a community, our economy benefits not only from the things we ship out of the Mid-Columbia. We also depend on good transportation to bring things into our region -- things like tourists and their dollars come to mind.

We have great climate and attractions worth coming here for. Good roads are an important draw.

So even though the thought of paying more for fuel is distasteful, it may well be the medicine that we need.

Now if we could just get the Legislature to conclude its business in a timely manner. That would be special.

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