Democrats hear new billion-dollar proposal to increase gas prices

  • Bill would raise oil taxes more than $1 billion over four years
  • Joins other proposals that would drive up fuel prices
  • Rising fuel prices impose hardship on working families

OLYMPIA – A new proposal to raise taxes on motor fuel more than $1 billion over the next four years has surfaced in the Senate and is being fast-tracked for approval by the Democratic majority, joining other proposals this session that would increase fuel prices, including a carbon tax, cap-and-trade and low-carbon fuel standards.

Senate Bill 5993, which would quadruple the state’s hazardous substance tax rate on oil products, was introduced Tuesday by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, and heard Wednesday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The measure would impose a tax of $2.52 a barrel, equivalent to six cents a gallon. A vote has not yet been scheduled, but is expected soon. 

“The attack we are seeing on energy jobs this year is unprecedented,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, ranking Republican on the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee. “People keep coming back with more and more taxes on the oil industry and refineries. They think they are targeting rich corporations, but in reality, all they are doing is impacting working families and driving up energy costs. When we increase the price of gas, we hurt everyone who uses it – and that’s all of us.”

The state’s hazardous substance tax was sold to Washington voters in 1987 as a way to pay for cleanup of contaminated sites where no responsible owner can be located. It imposes a tax rate of .07 percent on the wholesale value of hazardous products, including paint, pesticides and crude oil brought into Washington for refining. About 95 percent of the tax is paid by refiners and is reflected in the price charged to retailers for fuel.

Ericksen said this session’s war on oil is approaching a tipping point. Some 5,000 workers depend on refinery jobs in Whatcom and Skagit counties. “I’m very worried about the future of these jobs, which are so important to the economy of Whatcom and Skagit counties and Washington state,” Ericksen said. “In this climate it is going to be very hard to stay in Washington state and make a profit.”