Despite the fact voters continue rejecting initiatives to raise taxes, the majority party in Olympia is pushing hard again this session to increase the state’s gas tax. That’s not how they’re marketing their low-carbon fuel standard mandate, of course, but that’s exactly what it would do.
Under House Bill 1110, the state’s Department of Ecology would be tasked with creating a program to reduce the carbon content in transportation fuels. In order for fuel suppliers to be in compliance with the state’s mandate, they would either need to mix their existing gas and diesel with biofuels, or buy credits from suppliers of lower carbon transportation fuels. Either way, their costs would rise dramatically.
But it’s not fuel suppliers who would get hit the hardest. It’s the family in rural Washington that has to drive long distances to get to the grocery store or the doctor’s office. It’s the farmer, already hanging on by a thread, who can’t afford to take on any additional financial burdens. It’s the small trucking company, like GT Stoffel Trucking in Washougal, praying for better rates and fewer headaches.
All of us in the Legislature want to foster a clean and healthy environment that preserves our state’s magnificent forests, mountains, fields, rivers and lakes. But we can’t pretend the implementation of a low-carbon fuel standard mandate is going to fix what is a global problem. Raising everyone’s costs for a policy that would likely only reduce the carbon in Washington’s atmosphere by a fraction of a percent simply does not make sense.
Gas prices, perpetually among the highest in the nation, would rise even further. Groceries would become more expensive. Jobs would be lost. And homebuilding would slow at a time when our state is struggling to solve both a homelessness and affordable housing problem.
For hours, the members of our caucus stood on the House floor to make these points and urge the majority to reconsider their support for the bill. In the end, it passed 52-44. It now heads to the Senate, where it languished last year before the clock ran out on the 105-day session.
We sincerely hope it meets the same fate this year, not because we don’t care about our environment, but because this is not the right policy for Washington state. And also because the people have spoken on this issue. They’ve twice rejected initiatives to implement a carbon tax. Is there any doubt how a vote would turn out if the majority’s low-carbon fuel standard mandate was on the ballot this year?
The height of arrogance is pretending we know better than the people we’re here to serve. Efforts like HB 1110 and the numerous other majority-sponsored bills that would raise the state’s gas tax ignore what they’ve repeatedly told us at the ballot box: enough is enough. The Senate should do what the House failed to do and reject HB 1110.
Reps. Brandon Vick and Larry Hoff, both R-Vancouver, represent the 18th Legislative District.