OLYMPIA… Agricultural-policy leaders from the Senate Republican Caucus are weighing in on attempts to gaslight the public on why Washington’s gas prices remain highest in the nation.
While Gov. Jay Inslee and other Democratic elected officials tried to lay blame on the oil and gas industry during a news conference today, Senators Ron Muzzall, Judy Warnick, Perry Dozier and Mark Schoesler pointed out the hypocrisy of Democrats about their “cap-and-gouge” carbon-pricing scheme and its impact on the state’s agricultural producers. The carbon law was passed in 2021 but did not take full effect until 2023, triggering a steady rise in Washington gas prices. Washington overtook California for the nation’s worst gas prices a month ago.
“The governor and supporters of this money-grab are the only ones surprised that their carbon tax would result in higher prices at the pump,” said Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, the ranking Republican on the Senate’s ag-related committee. “There’s a great deal of unhelpful finger-pointing going on while our ag industry is hurting. It’s hypocritical that farmers are stuck paying nearly 50 cents more per gallon for gas in costs that they were legally exempted from, while the governor gets to be chauffeured in his taxpayer-funded luxury SUV.”
The row over a fuel-surcharge exemption for Washington’s agriculture, timber and marine industries is ongoing as state regulators seem unable to follow the law’s requirements. When pressed on the issue, Inslee has flippantly said that these affected groups should seek reimbursement from the oil and gas industry themselves.
“Proponents of this scheme promised to maintain the exemption for ag fuel and broke that promise,” said Warnick, R-Moses Lake. “During recent town halls, I heard near-unanimous frustration and opposition to what the governor and these politicians are doing to rural and minority communities that I represent. Taking money out of working families’ pockets to line the state’s coffers doesn’t reduce carbon emissions, but it does make our state even more unaffordable.”
Washington has operated a similar state fuel tax refund program for the same industries for years, leaving Republican lawmakers and the public scratching their heads as to why the legally required rebates are unattainable.
“The governor has zero business talking about accountability on fuel prices. He hasn’t even held his own administration accountable for how his policy has gouged our state’s agricultural and maritime sectors. For months he and members of the Democratic majority ignored Republican efforts to end the surcharges on exempt fuels that are not only unfair but illegal,” said Dozier, R-Waitsburg, who prime-sponsored an unsuccessful piece of legislation to ensure the exemption is followed. “Farmers are price takers – they can’t be expected to absorb higher fuel costs while the governor and Ecology have dragged their feet on making things right. It’s completely unacceptable.”
The average price of regular unleaded gas in Washington is $4.928 today, compared to $4.588 in Oregon a gallon and $3.892 in Idaho. Assertions by Inslee and other Democratic lawmakers of price gouging and profiteering are debunked by the price disparity, while the effect of the higher fuel costs on overall business expenses puts Washington’s agricultural sector and other employers at a disadvantage.
“Even though the governor has been demonizing oil companies as the reason why our state has the highest gas prices in the nation, our neighboring states have much lower prices,” said Schoesler, R-Ritzville, a co-sponsor of Dozier’s legislation. “Oregon and Idaho don’t have cap-and-trade. It’s obvious that Washington’s cap-and-trade program is why our state has the highest gas prices in America. While most of the nation is enjoying gas prices below $4 a gallon, people in our state have been forced to pay about $5 a gallon for several weeks, and prices in Washington likely are going to keep rising.”