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To tax and build

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Washington’s Senate caucus of fiscal conservatives and penny pinchers has proposed something if not out of character, against their natural grain enough to be bold — a phased 11.5-cent hike in the state gasoline tax, to finance $12.3 billion in highway projects. The proposal, to pay for 51 projects, is noticeably fatter than the package passed by the Democratic House last year, the package the Majority Coalition Caucus could not abide. The Senate coalition would raise the fuel tax a penny more and pay for $2.5 billion more projects.

The proposal is a notable step toward an eventual compromise that could produce the investments in transportation and infrastructure the state desperately needs. There is now universal recognition that investment financed by a higher tax on fuel is necessary for the state’s economic well-being, and that in itself is a move in the right direction.

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