OLYMPIA -- Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to place a $1.50 per barrel fee on oil refined in Washington state appears close to dead. Two key Senate Democrats said as much today in separate settings.
Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee which would decide how to spend the money the proposed fee would raise, told a breakfast gathering of the state Good Roads and Transportation Association she believes, like most Republicans, that it's really a tax, not a fee. The difference is more than just semantics. A fee can be passed by the Legislature on a majority vote, which Democrats have in both houses; a tax needs a two-thirds majority, which they don't have.
The final decision on fee v. tax would rest with Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who presides over the Senate, but Haugen said she thinks he'd rule it a tax, too.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane said this afternoon the proposal is "not getting any momentum" in the Senate Democratic Caucus. Translation: don't bother putting a mirror under its nostrils, this idea isn't breathing.