Despite the opposition of an overwhelming majority of voters, carbon gas tax alive and well in state Senate, Editor Ken Vance

Twice Washington voters strongly rejected similar proposals but lawmakers push on with their own agenda

It seems those of us who reside in Clark County, or the state of Washington for that matter, have a long history of examples that elected officials and lawmakers just don’t care what us citizens (voters) have to say about important topics.

I realize not everyone feels the same way about all issues as I do. That certainly is not my expectation. And, I’m very comfortable being in the minority on issues from time to time. But, when my opinion is largely in the majority of other voters (citizens), it’s very disheartening when elected officials and lawmakers elect to blatantly ignore the majority in pursuit of their own agenda.

The latest example of this came last week when state lawmakers resurrected their effort to create a carbon gas tax in the state of Washington. Senate Bill 5971, co-sponsored by Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver, 49th District), was introduced in the Senate Feb. 22 and referred to  Ways & Means on March 7.

SB 5971 ( would add taxes to fossil fuels used for vehicles, home heating and home electricity. According to Todd Myers — director, Center for the Environment — in a blog for the Washington Policy Center, ( SB 5971 would add 19 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas in the state of Washington. Remember, Washington already has the third highest gas tax in the nation at 49.4 cents per gallon, which doesn’t include an additional 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax for a total of 67.8 cents per gallon. That’s more than 20 percent of the current price for gas, without the additional increase if lawmakers pass a new carbon gas tax.

This recent photo from a pump at a gas station in Clark County shows the gas tax rate that Southwest Washington residents currently pay. Photo by Ken Vance
This recent photo from a pump at a gas station in Clark County shows the gas tax rate that Southwest Washington residents currently pay. Photo by Ken Vance

In Myers’ blog, he broke down the three energy taxes that would be added if SB 5971 is passed by lawmakers:

  • A $15 per metric ton of CO2 carbon tax on motor fuels, about 13 cents per gallon
  • A 6-cent-per-gallon gas tax, protected by the 18th Amendment of the state constitution, which can only be used for road construction
  • A $10 per metric ton of CO2 carbon tax on home heating and electricity

I feel much the same way about the carbon gas tax as I do about light rail being forced on Clark County residents on any project that would bring us a third crossing over the Columbia River or a replacement of the Interstate 5 Bridge. The proponents may feel in their hearts and minds it’s the best thing for our society, but the majority of us just don’t agree. And, why doesn’t that matter to lawmakers?

SB 5971 is alive and well in the state Senate even though Washington voters strongly rejected the idea of a carbon gas tax by rejecting Initiative 1631 in the November 2018 general election. The measure failed with 56.3 percent of voters rejecting it.

Prior to that, environmental advocates in Washington had previously attempted to pass carbon pricing measures. In the 2016 election, Initiative 732 — which was described as a “tax swap’’ proposal to levy a tax on carbon emissions while reducing the state’s sales tax — was rejected 59.3 percent to 40.7 percent.

So, twice in recent years, Washington voters sent a clear message to their lawmakers that we didn’t want a carbon gas tax yet the proponents of the effort absolutely don’t care. And, that frustrates the heck out of me.

Folks who share my conservative views on most subjects thought this was going to be a frustrating, if not painful legislative session. And, it’s shaping to be just that. Myers confirmed that in a comment to Dori Monson of Seattle’s KIRO Radio 97.3 FM.

“It’s a really strange political time, it’s one of the strangest sessions I’ve seen,’’ said Myers, according to Monson.

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