For a guy who recently wanted to criminalize certain false statements, Gov. Jay Inslee certainly seems to have no qualms about spreading disinformation himself.
It happened again Wednesday, after the new state revenue forecast had me and our Senate Republican budget leader repeating our call for a temporary suspension of the state gas tax. Here was Inslee’s response, as provided by a spokesperson and published in multiple news outlets:
“As for the idea of temporarily suspending the state gas tax, the oil companies would be the ones to benefit from yet another opportunity to pocket more profit at the expense of our ability to put people to work fixing our roads and bridges…”
Is the governor confusing the Republican proposal (Senate Bill 5897) with the three-month gas-tax holiday the Biden administration finally suggested, also on Wednesday? After all, the Biden plan apparently doesn’t protect against oil-company profiteering and could cut into federal transportation spending.
No, we’ve heard this… malarkey, as President Biden would call it… from the governor before. From Inslee’s May 18 press conference:
“We don’t think giving oil companies more profits with less money to fix our roads is the right answer to this problem.”
Anyone who reads SB 5897 can see it contains anti-profiteering safeguards to ensure pump prices are lowered, while preserving funding for state transportation investments. Also, the state gas tax is 49.4 cents per gallon, nearly triple the 18.4 cents of federal gas tax. Our idea, which could be quickly enacted in a one-day virtual special session, would save much more money for a longer period than the Biden idea.
On March 8, just before the 2022 legislative session ended, Republicans made a motion to bring this legislation before the Senate for consideration. A gallon of regular gas in our state had just hit an average price of $4.45. The senator making that motion said this about the bill:
“It is not a paycheck to gas companies, the bill ensures that doesn’t occur. And it does not take away from other transportation priorities, as it transfers funds from the general fund. Rather, this is actually a reminder that the gas tax is an extremely regressive tax, one that affects those in the middle- and lower-income categories… and so this is a way… to give those families the relief they deserve, especially as gas prices are continuing to rise.”
Democratic senators were warned, by their own leadership, that voting to consider the bill would force them to stay longer at the Capitol. They fell into line and rejected the opportunity to extend immediate relief. The average cost of a gallon has climbed more than a dollar since then.
I’m guessing the governor is just fine with high fuel prices. After all, he has a taxpayer-provided car and driver and doesn’t feel the pain at the pump like the rest of us. But more to the point, anyone who disdains fossil fuel as much as Inslee likely views $5 gas with joy, thinking it will push people toward mass transit and electrified transportation.
Don’t expect Inslee to admit that, however – a pesky news reporter might start asking rank-and-file Democratic state lawmakers whether they side with the no-relief governor or with their constituents, who are looking for relief. I doubt those legislators would appreciate being put on the spot.
So instead, the governor has resorted to spreading disinformation. Maybe it’s willful, maybe he simply doesn’t understand our proposal. Maybe it’s both. Whatever the reason, I caution the people of Washington and the watchdogs in the news media to look out for it.
–– Senate Republican Leader John Braun