Proposed \Shadow Gas Tax\: Budget Reduction or Environmental Protection?

Legislation that would triple the tax-on-toxics ostensibly to combat pollution in Puget Sound instead looks like a means to help balance the state budget.

These bills (HB 3181/SB 6851) would increase the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) tax passed by voter initiative in the 1980s and placed on hazardous substances including pesticides dangerous metals and primarily petroleum products. The bill is sponsored by 35 House Democrats and backed by environmental and social service organizations and labor that want to increase the tax rate from 0.7 to 2 percent to help pay for various projects. Most specifically the goal is water quality protection projects to help combat pollution in Puget Sound and other sensitive bodies of water. The increase is projected to raise about $225 million per year initially.

However more than two-thirds of the money would go to the general fund and not to environmental protection. Plus the State Department of Revenue estimates the measure would add three cents to the price of a gallon of gas. This would be in essence a “shadow gas tax” that both circumvents the constitutional requirement that gas taxes be spent on transportation projects and makes it harder to gain public support for any future gas tax proposal that funds needed transportation projects. Finally the Legislature artificially created diminished MTCA funds by diverting $180 million from that account last year; the Governor has requested that another $80 million be diverted this year.

AGC is opposed to the legislation which is scheduled for a hearing in the House Committee on Capital Budget on Feb. 17. AGC members are encouraged to contact their legislators and encourage them to oppose this bill. Click here to access AGC’s easy-to-use Legislative Action Center and contact your elected representatives today.

For more information contact AGC’s Director of Government Affairs Rick Slunaker 360-352-5000.

Sponsors of HB 3181 are Representatives Ormsby Hunter Clibborn Dunshee Upthegrove Rolfes Wood Williams Springer Dickerson Liias Sells Roberts Kagi Cody Green Eddy Nelson White Hunt Orwall Hudgins Pettigrew Darneille Appleton Chase Pedersen Kenney Maxwell Flannigan Kirby Carlyle Goodman McCoy and Simpson.

Sponsors of SB 6851 are Senators Murray Brown Tom Pridemore Rockefeller Kline Oemig Kauffman McDermott Gordon Jacobsen Keiser Franklin Fairley McAuliffe Eide Fraser Berkey Shin Kastama Hargrove Kohl-Welles Regala and Prentice.