Washington Governor Chris Gregoire proposed a new wholesale vehicle fuel tax Tuesday that you might notice at the gas pump. The governor said the move will help the state support education by helping cover the costs of getting kids to school.
Currently, school districts help pay for students' transportation needs, but a recent court ruling says state government is not doing enough to support education. That includes education-related transportation.
Gregoire’s solution? A new tax on refineries to basically pay for school bus costs. Her plan was included in her 2013-2015 budget proposal, which is required under state law. Gregoire said her fuel-tax proposal is directed at oil producers, not consumers:
Let’s be clear, the five top oil companies in America, in the first six months of this year, had over $60 billion in profits. So I expect them to do this without passing this on to consumers.
Gregoire’s proposal would cost fuel wholesalers about 5 cents a gallon in the first year, 8 cents a gallon by 2015, and 12 cents a gallon in 2017.
State Senator Andy Hill is the likely chairman of the Senate budget committee. He opposes the plan and predicts that the new fuel tax would get passed down to consumers. “That really hurts the middle class as they fill up their tanks," explains Hill. "I think when you ask the average voter, when you ask about transportation, they think about roads, bridges, tunnels, ferries. They don’t think about school buses.”
Fellow Republicans say the state doesn’t need to raise taxes to pay for education.
Gregoire’s plan would need to be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature and Governor-elect Jay Inslee. A spokesman for Inslee wouldn’t say whether the incoming governor supports Gregoire’s plan. The spokesman said Inslee will lay out his own budget plan during the upcoming legislative session.