Washington Gov. Jay Inslee bucks Biden push to cut state gas tax

The governor said oil companies would benefit the most from such a move
Jay Inslee

It looks like there will be no state gas tax holiday for Washingtonians despite President Joe Biden’s endorsement of the idea as part of his Wednesday ask that Congress suspend the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax for three months.

“Today I'm calling on Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for the next 90 days, through the busy summer season, busy travel season,” said Biden during his announcement.

The president also called on states to take action as part of an effort to address the politically-touchy subject of high gas prices ahead of the midterm elections in November.

“But we can also cut gas prices even more in another way," Biden said. "That’s why the second action I’m taking is calling on states to either suspend the state gas tax as well or find other ways to deliver some relief.”

Gov. Jay Inslee was not moved by the president’s appeal, according to a spokesperson.

“There’s no question many families are facing hardship from inflation and rising gas prices, but the governor has been consistent about his skepticism for this approach,” Jamie Smith, Inslee’s executive director of communications, said in an email to The Center Square.

She reiterated Inslee’s position that temporarily getting rid of Washington’s 49.4 cents per gallon gas tax – third highest in the nation – would do little more than enrich fossil fuel companies.

“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 at the expense of our ability to put people to work fixing our roads and bridges,” Smith explained.

She pointed to another option Inslee favors for easing financial pressure at the pump for Washington drivers.

“The governor has supported approaches like the one the Legislature recently adopted with the Working Families Tax Credit that is being implemented now and will provide hundreds of dollars directly to hundreds of thousands of Washington families,” Smith said.

Last month Inslee told the “Seattle Morning News” podcast help is on the way for beleaguered motorists in the form of the tax credit Smith referenced.

“It’s an average of about $1,200 a year people will start receiving next year who are in the lower income brackets that can cushion some of the shock of this oil problem,” Inslee said.

The Center Square sought clarification from Smith on how targeted tax relief next year would help drivers now, but received no response.

In January – during this year’s legislative session – Republican senators proposed Senate Bill 5897 that would replace Washington’s gas tax with $15 billion in surplus funds, but the bill never made it out of committee.

A March attempt to bring the bill up for debate in the Senate was rejected by the Democratic majority.

In April, Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, called for the Legislature to reconvene so lawmakers could vote to suspend the state’s gas tax. No special session was called.

According to AAA, as of Wednesday the average price of gas in Washington is nearly $5.53 cents per gallon, compared to the national average of almost $4.96 per gallon.