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Washington state already has one of the highest gas taxes in the country, but House Democrats are proposing a plan to make it the highest at 47.5 cents per gallon.

House Republicans believe raising taxes for transportation funding puts the cart ahead of the horse and that the first priority for transportation policy should be trimming waste.

The House Republican Caucus released a statement from state Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) Wednesday:

With prior tax increases, our state built an off-ramp in the wrong place, a ferry that doesn’t work well in Puget Sound and faulty pontoons that may jeopardize the new 520 Bridge project.

Now, House Democrats want to charge Washington drivers the highest gas tax in the nation at nearly 48-cents-per-gallon, more than doubling it since 2003. When you include federal taxes, Washington drivers would be paying 66 cents in state and federal taxes for every gallon of gas they purchase. …

The reality is people can’t afford more at the pump right now – especially those out of work or who have to commute long distances because their communities have been decimated by the economy and land-use restrictions.

Before we even entertain the idea of a gas tax increase, we want to talk about transportation and economic reforms. We will talk more about these reforms next week. If the Democrats are willing to have this discussion, we are willing to work with them.

We need to see how we can make our tax dollars go further, before we reach further into taxpayers’ pockets.

The House, however, is very unlikely to produce much more than a rhetorical battle since Republicans remain a minority with no real power to introduce competing proposals in the Democratic-controlled lawmaking process.

In contrast, the Democratic majority and Republicans in the state Senate have been operating much as voters expect from a two-party legislative body, representing the two sides of a coin on important issues relating to taxes, spending and regulations.

The booster seat provided by state Sens. Rodney Tom (D-Medina) and Tim Sheldon (D-Potlach) to permit creation of the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has given the GOP a legitimate seat at the negotiating table after having been marginalized in recent sessions.

The situation in the state House is not as conducive to a free flow of ideas about government. With Democrats still holding a 12-seat majority under the firm leadership  of Speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle), Republicans have been relegated to the sidelines in the legislative process.

Despite the obvious ways that the Senate changes alter the negotiation dynamic between the two bodies of the Legislature for approving bills that can be sent to the governor,

There is no doubt that Republicans will get out and make noise about the proposed gas tax, but what will likely be absent from the debate is actual legislation that presents an alternative to the Democratic plan. The continued stranglehold House Democrats have at the committee level virtually ensures that Republican proposals will not see the light of day, at least within the halls of Olympia’s lower body.

Related Articles: In the News, Legislation

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