SEATTLE - Pressure is mounting on Gov. Jay Inslee and Democratic lawmakers in the state House and Senate to follow the lead of other Democratically-led states and provide meaningful tax relief in light of rising inflation.
President Joe Biden started the push when he asked Congress on June 22 for a temporary three-month suspension of the $0.18 per-gallon federal gas tax. He asked the states to do the same with state gas taxes or provide some sort of state tax relief.
"I fully understand that a gas tax holiday alone is not gonna fix the problem, but it will provide families some immediate relief," Biden said.
Democratic Gov. of California, Gavin Newson, signed a new state budget on Thursday that included a tax rebate of up to $1,050 per person. The $9 billion in rebates comes from an anticipated $97.5 billion tax surplus this year.
He and state lawmakers chose not to suspend the state gas tax, which is the nation’s highest at $.54 a gallon.
"We need it to go directly to the people, not in the pockets of oil companies, not in the pockets of corporations or even gas station owners," he told KTVU-TV. "That’s why our approach is a direct rebate that quickly gets back into people’s pockets."
Washington state’s gas tax is $0.49 a gallon and the state is forecasting a $15 billion tax surplus for next year.
There are 14 states considered Democratic-trifecta states. This is where the Governor and the majorities both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate are the same political party.
According to the Washington Policy Center, all the Democratic-trifecta states, except Washington, have or are considering some form of surplus tax relief or inflation relief.
Those states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island.
Tax cuts and refunds are automatic in Colorado and Oregon when tax revenues exceed spending.
Lawmakers in Hawaii are considering a $300 rebate per taxpayer. $1.8 billion in tax relief is going to Illinois residents, and an $850 rebate per taxpayer is being proposed by its Democratic Governor. New Jersey’s Governor is proposing $900 in property tax relief.
The democratic majority of lawmakers in New Mexico is considering up to a $750 income tax rebate. $2.2 billion in New York has been set aside as a one-time property tax rebate and $162 million in income tax relief.
"Absolutely, I’d like to see a tax rebate" says JT Wilcox, the Republican Minority Leader of the Washington State House of Representatives.
"We’ve got billions of dollars of new revenue coming in," he says. "Every family in the state of Washington has had to adjust because of inflation and it only makes sense that our state government makes some adjustments that will help the citizens of Washington".
Inslee has not been asked directly or been quoted since Biden suggested states offer some form of inflation and gas tax relief.
After the President asks states to suspend state gas taxes, Inslee spokesperson Jaime Smith said the Governor opposed suspending the state’s $0.49 a gallon tax because "the oil companies would be the ones to benefit from suspending the gas tax because it provides another opportunity for them to pocket more profit."
The Democratic chairman of the state Senate Transportation Committee, Marko Liias, agreed with the Governor’s office and said the state should explore other alternatives to a gas tax suspension.
"I think we should find another way to provide energy rebates to folks," Liias told FOX 13 News. "Pennsylvania is kind of looking at a per car rebate and I think something like that makes more sense. The gas tax is just not the right mechanism right now."
Pennsylvania is led by a Democratic governor, but both its state House and Senate have Republican majorities.
FOX 13 asked Gov. Inslee's Office if he plans to follow California’s example of a per-person tax surplus rebate.
Smith responded by saying, "the Working Families Tax Credit will provide hundreds of dollars directly to hundreds of thousands of families, and that will be an ongoing program, not one-time."