Top WA Democrat no longer supports tax on exported fuels
A senior Democrat in the Washington Legislature is drawing support from a proposed tax on fuel exported from the state’s five refineries that has been criticized by neighboring states.
The Seattle Times reports that Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, one of the architects of a proposed $16.8 billion transportation funding measure, said Saturday he no longer supports the controversial levy.
“We’ve heard from people and heard their concerns,” Fey told the newspaper. “Everything from the price of oil as it was, to worry about what might happen with what’s happening in Ukraine, to the response from elected officials in Oregon, Idaho and Alaska.”
Majority Democrats had proposed a 6-cent-per-gallon tax on fuel exported from the state. Nearly 40% of the fuel processed at Washington refineries is shipped to other states, primarily Oregon. In proposing the new tax, Democrats said it was a way for neighboring states to share in the environmental burden caused by these refineries.
But the backlash was quick, accompanied by legal threats. Republicans in Idaho and Alaska threatened retaliation. And Oregon Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, called on Washington Governor Jay Inslee to veto the tax and on lawmakers to change course. She said the tax would get bogged down in legal battles, jeopardizing cooperation between the two states on a new Interstate 5 crossing over the Columbia River.
Instead of the tax, which is expected to raise $2 billion over the next 16 years, Fey instead wants to transfer $100 million a year for the next 15 years from the state’s public works account.
The amended plan would leave the state $500 million less in funding for transportation projects than was proposed in the original Democrats package. Fey said that would inevitably mean some parts of the measure will be removed, but he doesn’t know which ones.
Fey said he informed members of the Democratic House of the change and spoke to his counterpart, Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, on Saturday morning.
Liias said he was “satisfied” with the progress of the package in the House and “open to other means of financing it”.