Woods: Courageous leader or traitor to her party?

OLYMPIA — The chamber halls of the state House of Representatives was reported to have echoed with the sound of applause April 24, the final night of the 2005 session and one concluded with the passage of the largest gas tax increase in state history.

Among those who no doubt breathed a sigh of relief with the session’s conclusion was 23rd District Rep. Bev Woods (R-Kingston), ranking minority member of the House transportation committee and a leader in creating the $8.5 billion package that will renovate much of the state’s transportation infrastructure.

The political stakes were high in the vote, mostly a polarized tally with Democrats for a 9.5 cent gas tax increase over the next four years, and with most Republicans against.

Woods, and 11 other Republicans, broke rank and sided with the party across the aisle.

“We have not significantly invested in our infrastructure for years,” Woods said of her decision. “We’ve gotten to the point where we weren’t even keeping up with the maintenance (of the roads) ... We have an obligation as a government to take care of our infrastructure.”

Then came the backfire.

Opponents of the tax hike responded and created an initiative signature drive to repeal the increase, but were given little chance of success, due to both time and financial constraints.

Residents came out in droves to help with the signature drive — more than 500 here in Kitsap alone — and County Republican Chair Matthew Cleverley, the local orchestrator of the gathering, called the effort “an untamable animal.” Record-high oil prices also exacerbated many state motorists’ anguish on the issue, as gas prices soared past $2.50 a gallon.

Secretary of State Sam Reed confirmed Initiative 912 on the November ballot Aug. 8, setting up a showdown between rolling back the gas tax to its original 28 cents

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