Export fuel tax likely on its way out as neighboring states slam Washington proposal
Laurel Demkovich / The Spokesperson Review
OLYMPIA — A controversial proposal to include a tax on fuel exported from Washington to neighboring states may be on the way out.
The 6-cent-per-gallon tax proposal is part of a nearly $17 billion, 16-year transportation package that Democrats say will fund public transit, maintenance and other projects. But the export tax drew criticism from lawmakers in Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, who called it “shortsighted” and “dangerous.”
Now, an amendment proposed by House Democrats would remove the tax from the plan. It would have brought about $2 billion over the next 16 years to Washington.
This amendment would be voted on when the bill is tabled, which could happen as early as this week.
The amendment was tabled Saturday, a day after the Oregon Legislature and Gov. Kate Brown sent a letter to Washington lawmakers urging them to scrap the package tax.
“Do not pit Oregon against Washington,” the letter read.
It also comes a day after Senate Transportation Chairman Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, apologized to the Senate after making “meaningful, disrespectful and inappropriate comments about the Governor of Oregon,” according to the Seattle Times.
Liias told conservative radio host John Carlson on Thursday that Brown was “living in fantasy land.”
Brown has been outspoken against the proposal since Washington Democrats first proposed it earlier this month.
In a Seattle Times op-ed on Tuesday, Brown said no one in Washington consulted with his office before proposing the “short-sighted tax hike.”
“Let’s be clear: Oregon will not condone taxes levied by Washington leaders without consultation with our state government, business community, or residents,” Brown wrote.
Several Oregon Republicans have also threatened to pull out of Interstate 5 bridge replacement talks with Washington if the tax passes.
“If this unconstitutional tax is passed, then Washington should pay for the entire cost of replacing the interstate bridge itself,” State Representative Shelly Boshart Davis said in a statement.
The funding is included in Washington’s proposed transportation package to complete their portion of the I-5 Bridge.
In Idaho, the state House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday opposing the tax. The resolution says the proposed tax would impose “an enormous financial burden on Idahoans in the name of offsetting Washington’s business costs.”
He strongly encouraged Gov. Jay Inslee to veto the tax if it reaches his office.
A letter from Idaho Governor Brad Little and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden also urged Inslee to stop the “dangerous” proposals.
“Now is not the time for our states to turn on each other with excise tax proposals that are dragging down our economy and increasing costs for everyone,” the letter said.
Mike Faulk, a spokesman for Inslee, said Thursday the then-governor continued to support the package, which he called “the most climate-friendly investments in state history.” . He said he hoped the legislation would be delivered to his office, where he planned to sign it.
“Sources of funding are always a matter of debate, and this plan is no different,” Faulk wrote in an email. “Washington produces fuels that benefit communities in other states, and Washingtonians bear the climate impacts of that fuel production. It is not unreasonable to share the social cost of carbon with those who benefit from our fuel production. “
Alaska lawmakers have said they will retaliate on the tax. A proposed bill in the Alaska Legislature would impose a $15.75 surcharge on a barrel of oil produced in Alaska and delivered to a state that imposes a tax on fuel delivered to Alaska.
Washington Democrats initially stuck to their plan. The transport committee voted 15 to 14 on Tuesday to keep export fuel in the package.
During the debate over a Republican amendment that would remove the package tax, Republicans argued that the tax could lead to a “trade war” between states.
“This relationship that we’re damaging with our friends across various borders is problematic,” Rep. Mike Volz, R-Spokane, said.
Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, said Washington has needs other than transportation this year, and “we’re in a balanced position here” when it comes to allocation revenues. The transportation package already uses up $2 billion of the operating budget, he said.
“It’s unprecedented,” Fey said. “It’s a recognition that we have needs.”
House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said she was open to other ideas as the bill was introduced, but added before Saturday’s amendment that there was “little other ideas that exist”.
“No tax has ever been passed without much consternation,” Jinkins told reporters.
House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said at a Feb. 8 news conference that Florida, Texas and Tennessee have similar taxes that Washington has used as models for this proposal. .