- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 26, 2020

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - House and Senate leaders have unveiled plans to fill a $450 million hole in the state’s transportation budget created by the passage of an initiative that slashes vehicle registration fees.

The Spokesman-Review reported that the budget writers warn that the proposals released this week by the two chambers are a stopgap measure that won’t last past mid-2021. But they hope it will be enough to lead to an order by Gov. Jay Inslee to lift the seven-month pause on new work on some major projects while they look for a solution to the loss of many fees and taxes connected to vehicle license tabs that came as a result of Initiative 976, which voters approved in November.

Transportation budget writers in the Senate released their proposal Tuesday, while the House’s plan was released Monday. The plans look to move money around from various accounts and take some money set aside from major road projects that hasn’t been spent.

The budget proposals also restore funding to mass transit and specialty transportation programs, ferry system projects and some Washington State Patrol programs, because that agency gets much of its money from transportation fees and taxes.

Because I-976 initiative is being challenged in court, vehicle owners are still paying the original fees and costs when they renew their tabs, but the money is being set aside to be refunded if the initiative is upheld. The state Supreme Court is expected to hear the case later this year.

Next year, when legislators are writing a budget for the 2021-23 budget cycle that begins on July 1, the gap will grow to $685 million and the state will need to come up with another $675 million to replace and restore culverts to meet a court order.

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