As the legislature sets to start it’s 2014 session, the gas tax is definitely one of the issues on the front burner. With Governor Inslee insisting on new revenue for transportation projects, and Republicans insisting on reforming what seems to be a bloated, ineffective WSDOT, this issue is surely going to be one of major contention during this session.
A little talked about side show regarding the gas tax is the massive tax breaks given to Washington Tribes by former Governor Gregoire. In 2007 she unilaterally agreed to give the tribes (who were major contributors to the Democrat’s campaign fund) 75% of all gas taxes collected at tribal stations. This windfall payoff for the tribes increased the tribe’s gas tax take from $5,000,000 annually prior to the deal, to a whopping $28,000,000 in 2010 (the last year in which data is available). Furthermore, DOT estimates that over $424,000,000 will go to the tribes in the next 10 years. Keep in mind, this is based on the current gas tax, not to mention the proposed 12.5 cent increase being proposed. The tribes stand to have a very prosperous New Year if this tax increase is passed.
To further complicate matters, this deal made by the former Governor may be unconstitutional. The 18th Amendment to the Washington State Constitution states that ALL gas tax money must be spent for road purposes. Is giving that money away to the Tribes considered spending the money on roads? Are the tribes spending the money on roads? Or are they simply giving a large portion back to the Democrats who support allotting this windfall of cash to the tribes? Don’t Native Americans use our roads and shouldn’t they help pay for them as well?
It’s hard to imagine a case where the people of the State of Washington would be asked to accept an increase in such a regressive tax when hundreds of millions of dollars are being doled out to the Democrat’s political friends. Gas price increases don’t just affect how much it costs us to get to work, they make everything we do more expensive. For a Governor who claims to want to help the middle class, asking the middle class to give more of their hard earned dollars to the state coffers… so he can pay off political allies is pretty hard to swallow. Those asking for this tax increase and the Governor certainly have some explaining to do.