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Washington GOP Senate leader wants special session to suspend state gas tax | Local

With gasoline prices at or near record highs and state coffers more than full, State Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, thinks the Legislature should reconvene so that lawmakers can vote to suspend Washington State’s gas tax.

As inflation rose by 8.5% to March, according to the consumer price index – the fastest annual increase since December 1981 – on a Thursday report the State Revenue and Economic Forecasting Council said revenue collected was more than $255 million higher than it forecast in February.

“The state government’s financial situation continues to improve while the affordability crisis continues to worsen,” Braun observed in a Tuesday statement. “If you’re under 40, you’ve never had to deal with such a high rate of inflation. As you might expect, higher food, gas, housing, and energy costs are harder on gig-economy and hourly-paid workers, as well as for seniors on fixed incomes.

He went on to criticize the Democrats’ response to the economic situation during this year’s legislative session that ended March 10, without any broad tax cuts passing.

“For young people looking to become homeowners for the first time or start a family, this is a real shock — and Democrats don’t seem to have any helpful answers,” Braun said. “Republicans have come up with idea after idea in this year’s session to help families cope with the rising cost of living. Despite a $15 billion budget surplus, we have failed to put in place any d Agreed our fellow Democrats. They just spent most of those billions on making the government even bigger.

For example, during this year’s legislative session, Senator Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, proposed property tax relief in the form of a Senate Bill 5769, died in commission. SB 5769 would have exempted the first $250,000 of a principal residence from state property tax.

Not even the relatively smaller proposals for a small tax cut via a three-day sales tax holiday around Labor Day that were in the original House Supplementary Estimates and the original Senate Supplementary Estimates proposal. to make Discovery Passes to parks and state lands free for one year. makes the final budget.

This does not mean that there was no tax relief in the supplementary budget of $64.1 million. Starting in January, businesses earning less than $125,000 a year will pay no state business taxes, and those making up to $250,000 a year will have their business taxes cut in half.

Democratic lawmakers have defended the absence of broad-based tax cuts on the grounds of saving money for a future economic downturn.

“We are entering a period of inflation and running the state government will cost more,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes of D-Bainbridge Island. My Northwest earlier this year. “If we are not strategic to save for this, we will end up in a recessionary situation where we will reduce things again.”

“I was in the Legislative Assembly during the recession and it’s just not a place we want to be – we want the public to know our government is sustainable,” added the chairman of the Senate Ways and means.

Braun thinks the temporary abolition of the gas tax would bring real relief to drivers in Washington.

“Just before the Legislature adjourned in early March, the current majority voted no to a Republican proposal to suspend the 49.4-cent gas tax until the end of 2022,” he said. he stated, referring to the senator’s proposed Senate Bill 5897. Simon Sefzik, R—Ferndale. “Fortunately, the latest earnings report keeps this opportunity alive. If Democrats just let go of their resistance to inflation relief, we could easily come together in a special one-day remote session to suspend the regressive gas tax and perhaps also consider a veto. or two.

Senator Marko Liias, D-Everett, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, did not respond to The Center Square’s request for comment on Bruaun’s call for the suspension of the US gasoline tax. State.

A gas tax suspension is somewhat of a bipartisan idea in Washington state, Braun pointed out when noting U.S. Congresswoman Kim Schrier, D-8th District, in February introduced a bill that would temporarily suspend the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents until January 1, 2023.

“Democrats can talk about ‘Putin’s price hikes’ all they want – gas prices have been rising all year, so much so that a member of our state’s own congressional delegation called to a gasoline tax suspension long before the invasion of Ukraine,” he said. .