Gas tax rises 1.5 cents per gallon on Tuesday

OLYMPIA — A state gasoline tax hike of 1.5 cents will inflict a little more pain at the pump on Tuesday, amid lowered expectations for the revenue it will raise.

So far, no North Olympic Peninsula highway projects now in the works are in danger, said Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, on Saturday.

But, since less gasoline is being used — because people are driving less or are turning to more fuel-efficient vehicles — the revenue projection from the tax hike is $28.2 million less through 2015 than when it was approved three years ago.

The increase is the fourth and final installment of a 9.5-cent gas tax hike approved by the state Legislature on April 19, 2005.

At that time, a gallon of regular gasoline was selling for $2.37 a gallon, and a gallon of diesel went for $2.77 a gallon, according to the Bremerton office of AAA Washington.

On Wednesday, that office reported a gallon of gasoline selling for $4.37 a gallon, while a gallon of diesel cost $4.94 a gallon.

Originally, Tuesday’s tax hike was expected to raise $389.9 million through 2015.

Now, the projection is $361.7 million in the same time period.

“That’s what we’ve been struggling with,” said Van De Wege, who — along with Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, and Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam — represents the 24th District, which includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and one third of Grays Harbor County.

“We know this has been going on.”

“But the decreased gas tax revenues pale in comparison to the increased materials costs,” Van De Wege said.

“We’ve skinnied down projects, and bumped out projects, but if things get worse, we will have to start cutting out projects.

“All of us are just concentrating on making sure those existing projects stay, such as the Highway 101 widening.”

The tax increase was part of a transportation funding package that included money for several North Olympic Peninsula projects.

Those included the Hood Canal Bridge retrofit and replacement, U.S. Highway 101 widening between Port Angeles and Sequim, safety improvements along U.S. Highway 101 west of Port Angeles and an overflow parking area at the Port Townsend ferry

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