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Shelve idea of gas tax increase

Using Boeing as cover, Gov. Jay Inslee called the Legislature back to Olympia this week for a special session.

But with Boeing unions yet to agree to build the new 777x aircraft here, the aircraft manufacturer is hardly the reason for lawmakers to be back in Olympia.

Rather, Gov. Inslee is calling on them to approve a new transportation package, and with it a 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike.

State Senate Republicans, backed by a majority of residents statewide, want the state Department of Transportation to rein in spending before passing a costly $9 billion tax package for bridge and road work.

That’s the right position to take.

The department has squandered millions of dollars in recent years constructing roundabouts on highways that don’t need them, installing guardrails on rural roads that have little need for them and erecting fencing on rocky outcroppings along rural highways. Those projects were unnecessary and unwanted east of the Cascades.

Gov. Inslee says the state’s transportation and traffic congestion issues aren’t fixable without a tax hike. Simply put, that’s not true.

If the state focused on much-needed repairs rather than unnecessary pet projects, there’s plenty of money coming into state coffers. If the state would live within its means — as taxpayers have to do — there wouldn’t be a need for a tax increase at the pump.

Fuel is the lifeblood for farmers, ranchers and orchardists here in Eastern Washington. And increasing the cost 10 cents per gallon would only be tightening the noose around the neck of our struggling rural economy.

If Western Washington wants circular traffic flow and wider lanes, let residents there pay for them with local-option taxes. We’ll pay for the improvements we want on this side of the state when the economy improves.

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