OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he would not support a temporary suspension of the state gas tax, despite President Joe Biden calling on state leaders to do so.
On Wednesday, Biden called on Congress to suspend the federal $0.18 gasoline tax for three months — an election-year move meant to ease financial pressures at the pump that was greeted with doubts by many lawmakers.
In Washington state, at $0.49 cents a gallon, the state's gas tax is only second to California as the highest in the country.
"The oil companies would be the ones to benefit from suspending the gas tax," Inslee’s Executive Director of Communications, Jaime Smith, told FOX13 in a statement. "It provides another opportunity for them to pocket more profit at the expense of our ability to put people to work fixing our roads and bridges."
By law, the gas tax has to be used for transportation-related projects like maintaining and building new roads and bridges. The state collects, on average, $144 million a month from the tax.
"To me, it’s not worth it," says Democratic State Senator and Chairman of the power of Senate Transportation Committee Mark Liias. "Now we are going to keep looking at it - keep our minds open- but right now, we've got too many important projects underway,"
But the ranking Republican on the same committee, Sen. Curtis King, says the state is sitting on billions of dollars of surplus revenue that could be used to backfill money lost to a gas tax suspension.
"That money hasn’t been invested in any way shape or form," he says. "But they [Democrats] don't want to give it to transportation because the environmentalists want six dollars a gallon gas and they want to force everybody out of their car."
"We hope the local gas stations will pass that gas tax holiday on to the consumer," Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, told FOX 13 News.
She says there’s evidence in the state of Maryland that the savings were passed onto the consumer after a state gas tax holiday.
"Economists will study if that happened by checking the prices before and after a tax holiday took place," she said.
In 2021 and again this year, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson proposed anti-price gouging legislation that the legislature failed to pass, according a Ferguson representative. Washington state does not define or prohibit price gouging.
"However, Attorney General Ferguson has declared that he is prepared to use the Consumer Protection Act’s general prohibition on unfair and deceptive practices to protect consumers from unconscionable price increases," Attorney General spokesperson Dan Jackson told FOX 13.
Any state gas tax holiday would require a special session of state lawmakers.
Liias says if it would come to be, it would take months after any vote that consumers would see the tax taken out of the price of a gallon of gas.