SALEM, Ore. -- House lawmakers from both parties voted to pass a $300 million per-year transportation package partly funded by a gas tax increase of 6 cents per gallon.
The bill also increases registration, title and license plate fees to pay for new road and road-widening projects across Oregon.
State business groups applauded the vote, saying it will create jobs at a time when Oregon ranks second in the country in unemployment.
About $88 million will go to Oregon counties and $55 million to cities each year. The remainder will go toward state highway maintenance, bridge and interstate modernization and transit projects.
It also has a green element. The bill aims to reduce greenhouse gas transmissions and allows medium-speed electric vehicles to use local roadways. It also sets aside money to provide electric vehicle charging stations at state highway rest areas, according to Oregon Business Plan.
The bill will introduce a "congestion pricing pilot project" in the Portland metro area. A indicates that metro drivers could potentially be charged "to use certain roadways during periods of high congestion."
The project may ultimately take Oregon closer to taxing drivers on how many miles they drive instead of how much gas they purchase. Details:
ODOT said the congestion pricing could be accomplished "either through an independent electronic system using roadside readers, or as a rate adjustment to an electronically-collected mileage fee, or a combination, for time-of-day travel in specific geographic areas where congestion prevails."
Lawmakers and Gov. Ted Kulongoski claim the legislation will sustain 4,600 jobs each year -- about 40,000 total over the next decade.
The House passed the bill on a 38-22 vote. It now moves to the Senate, where lawmakers were expected to pass it.
The gas tax portion won't kick in until the state has two consecutive quarters of economic growth or by the year 2011, whichever comes first.
Under the House plan, registration fees will increase $16 per year while title fees will increase $22 and drivers will pay a $10 surcharge for each license plate they buy.
Although Democrats hold 36 seats in the 60-member House -- the "supermajority" needed to pass tax hikes in the chamber -- the bill drew support from seven Republican members while five Democrats voted against it.
One of the Democratic 'no' votes came from House Majority Leader Mary Nolan of Portland.
Her spokesman, Michael Cox, said Nolan knew the package had enough support to pass and cast a symbolic `no' vote to show her concerns that the package is heavily weighted toward big highway projects and could been tilted a little more toward "green" transportation programs.
It was the first vote on a major tax increase measure so far this session.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.