OLYMPIA – Raising the tax on hazardous substances first levied by voters in 1988 is a bad idea, leaders of the Senate Transportation Committee said Monday.
It would add about 3 cents in taxes to a gallon of gasoline, might make voters skeptical about any future gas tax requests to pay for road projects, and would almost certainly generate a legal challenge, Democrats and Republicans who head the committee said.
Gov. Christine Gregoire last week proposed nearly tripling the tax, from .7 percent to 2 percent, on hazardous substances produced in the state. Although in the long-term the tax would be used for environmental cleanup around the state, for the first three years, the lion’s share would be shifted to the general fund to help fill a $2.8 billion hole in the state’s budget.
State Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, said he had two problems with raising the tax. One is the indirect connection between the production of things like gasoline and the environmental problems. It makes more sense to tie the cost of cleanup directly to the source of the pollution, such as sewage discharges, he said.
The other is the idea of diverting some of the money into the general fund. A bill that would enact the governor’s proposal has 23 supporters, he noted, but that’s two shy of a majority needed to pass a tax and may be losing support among its initial backers.