Gas Tax vs. Carbon Charge Debate Looms in Washington State

The Republican chair of the Senate Transportation Committee is considering an 11.5-cent gas tax increase, setting up a potential conflict with Gov. Jay Inslee's preference to apply a carbon charge to industrial emissions to fund transportation.

2 minute read

February 4, 2015, 8:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


"Republican Curtis King, the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, is looking at an 11.5-cent per gallon increase phased in over three years," writes Austin Jenkins, political reporter for the Northwest News Network. "It would help fund a $14 billion transportation package with projects on both sides of the Cascades." [Listen here.]

It’s been a decade since the last transportation package passed the Washington legislature. Pressure has been building on lawmakers to fund a new round of projects as well as maintenance and preservation of existing roads.

Should King proceed with a gas tax hike, it could set up a conflict with "Democratic Governor Jay Inslee (who) proposed a carbon-emissions charge on industrial emitters," writes Jenkins. A gas tax is the conventional means of funding transportation spending. Even in California, the only state to have a state-run carbon market that requires industries and, effective Jan.1, 2015, transportation fuel wholesalers, to purchase carbon allowances, revenues are not directed to the state Highway User Fund but to the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

However, as noted here in December, one motivation for the carbon charge was "that the governor has been trying to [raise the gas tax] unsuccessfully for the last two years (see here), so Inslee proposed (Dec. 16) to take a new approach."

Now that a key Republican may propose a comparable gas tax to the carbon charge in terms of revenue, will Inslee drop the cap-and-trade proposal?

Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update

Friday, January 30, 2015 in KUOW

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