Senate Democrats pass 55-cent increase in gas taxes, as Ericksen makes stand for working families

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  •  Higher fuel prices are top priority for majority Democrats
  • Ericksen says needs of working families come first
  • Bills would have far-reaching effect on economy, stifling jobs, driving up cost of living
  • No measurable impact on environment expected

OLYMPIA – A pair of bills that would quickly raise the cost of gas by 55 cents narrowly passed the Senate Thursday night, after an eight-hour battle by Sen. Doug Ericksen and fellow Republicans to derail what they called the most regressive tax in Washington history.

“This isn’t climate legislation,” said Ericksen, R-Ferndale. “This is tax legislation, and the people who are going to be paying the bill are the working families of Washington who can afford it the least.”

The steep increases in consumer fuel costs are a top priority for majority Democrats in this year’s Legislature. Impact could reach as high as 80 cents a gallon at full implementation. The cost would come in addition to state and federal gas taxes totaling 67.8 cents a gallon, already fourth highest in the country, as well as a proposal under consideration this year for a 9.8 cent increase in transportation-related gas taxes. All members of the Senate Republican Caucus opposed the bills, but Democrats had the votes.

House Bill 1091, a measure imposing a low-carbon fuel standards program, passed the Senate 27-20. Senate Bill 5126, imposing a cap-and-trade program, passed 25-24. Both measures go to the House for further consideration.

Ericksen, ranking Republican member of the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee, said the bills would have a far-reaching effect on the Washington economy, stifling business and job creation, and forcing low-income Washington residents to pay for efforts to promote purchases of electric cars by the wealthy.

“People driving Ford F-150 pickup trucks will have to subsidize people who drive electric cars, because this is the only way to meet the low-carbon fuel standards in the future,” Ericksen said.
The two bills would enact complicated schemes requiring manufacturers and other businesses to purchase “credits” and “allowances” to offset carbon emissions. The biggest impact would be on the state’s oil refiners, who are expected to pass the higher costs on to consumers in the form of higher fuel prices.

Ericksen noted that the two measures would have no measurable impact on climate change, because Washington produces about two-tenths of one percent of global carbon emissions. If the measures work as designed, Washington output would decrease only slightly.

“This Legislature is going to create a massive wealth-creating system for certain individual companies at the expense of working families — with no benefit to the environment, zero benefit to our road system. We’re not going to build more trails or parks, prevent forest fires or bring the salmon back.”

Ericksen said the bills would create massive disruption in the Washington economy, forcing businesses to spend millions of dollars on compliance rather than investing in expansion and creating new jobs. Higher fuel prices will have a ripple effect throughout the economy, driving up the cost of food and anything transported by truck, and creating hardship and misery for those who have no money to spare.

“It’s not about the environment. It’s not about polar bears and ice caps. It’s about a system that creates wealth for certain companies and certain groups of interests at the expense of those who will have to pay more for fuel.”