Updated to add reaction from Senate Republicans' top negotiator:
Top Democrats in the Legislature said Wednesday the next move on a transportation-tax plan in 2014 is up to the Republican-steered Senate. House Democrats passed a spending plan last year only to see if die in the Senate, but the two chambers have been engaged in negotiations during the interim with encouragement from Gov. Jay Inslee.
Republican Sen. Curtis King of Yakima has taken the lead for the Republicans, whose Senate Majority Coalition controls the chamber with the help of two Democrats. Negotiators on both sides have called for tax hikes of more than a dime per gallon on gasoline but differences remain over transit funding, environmental issues, and reforms the GOP wants such as ending the sales tax on road construction projects.
Both House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, and Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson of Maury Island told reporters in a noon Wednesday briefing they think a package needs to move from the Senate floor before negotiations can really move forward.
King's spokesman put out a statement late Wednesday that acknowledged the onus is on the Senate:
“Our plan is to continue the discussions we’ve been having while working toward a proposal. We may find those discussions to be more Senate-specific at this point, but we’re still at the table looking for fair and equitable solutions to our state’s transportation needs,” said King, R-Yakima, who co-chairs the Senate Transportation Committee with Democrat Tracey Eide of Federal Way. “A lot of good progress has been made over the past six months, and I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of those negotiations take shape.”The Legislature is returning to Olympia for a 60-day session that starts Monday.