Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber: Increase gas tax and give governor more control? No!
Special to The Newport Miner (published 2/3/21)
The majority party in the House released their transportation budget recently, including a gas tax increase and several other fees. If approved, Washington state would have the highest gas tax in the nation. It prioritizes bike paths and the electrification of ferries above current projects and road maintenance. I am adamantly opposed!
The House Democrat Transportation plan would spend $26 billion over the next 16 years. But because it doesn't prioritize existing roads and highway maintenance, there would still be a preservation and maintenance backlog of over a billion dollars.
To raise this huge sum, they propose a gas tax increase of 10 cents the first year and another 8 cents the following year. However, they would tie these increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), in effect making sure the gas tax continues to increase in perpetuity without any further legislative analysis or action.
In addition, their plan places a carbon fee on industries of $15 per ton the first two years, $20 per ton the next two years, and then $25 per ton after that. This extra cost will undoubtedly be passed on to consumers. Combined with the previously mentioned gas tax increase, drivers could be paying $1 more per gallon each time they fill up! And this doesn't include the governor's low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) that recently passed out of committee. This could add another 50-60 cents per gallon.
People across the state and especially here in northeast Washington continue to struggle to make ends meet. Putting food on the table, making rent or mortgage payments, and meeting basic necessities has become more difficult for many. Now is not the time to add to that burden.
This gas tax increase would further divide our state by punishing rural communities who have longer commutes for work, school, and everyday tasks, and have less access to public transportation.
I continue to support real solutions that work, without taking more from struggling taxpayers.
My House Republican colleagues and I have proposed legislation to dedicate the state sales tax on motor vehicles to transportation. We have bills to prioritize the preservation and maintenance of existing roads and highways. And finally, for years we have been pushing our plan to put the sales tax on all state transportation projects back into the state transportation budget, instead of into the general fund where it gets lost.
Another bad bill, House Bill 1152, would do away with our current local county-based health department system and replace it with “regionalized” health districts consisting of a minimum of 250,000 residents. This governor request legislation continues Gov. Inslee's power grab to take control away from local governments.
Again, think of how this proposal punishes rural Washington. If you combined the populations of Ferry, Lincoln, Stevens, Chelan, Pend Oreille, and Okanogan counties, you still wouldn't meet this population threshold. Think of the land mass these counties represent. Basic services of a local health department, like restaurant inspections and certain well inspections, would be much more difficult, costly and time consuming.
What really makes this bill egregious, however, is the way health officers are hired and fired. Instead of our current system where local elected officials make these determinations, House Bill 1152 would give this authority to the Secretary of Health, who is appointed by – and takes his or her orders from – the governor.
That's right, this legislation would take authority away from your local elected official and give it Gov. Jay Inslee, a man who arguably has more power now than any governor in state history.
I will work against both proposals and I hope you can join me.
Concerned citizens can visit leg.wa.gov to express their views on this and other legislation. I encourage citizens to stay engaged in this remote legislation session and hold their elected leaders accountable.
(Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R-Republic, is the House Republican Floor Leader and serves on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee.)