Tax rollback on Washington state's fall ballot doesn't include diesel

| Tuesday, August 30, 2005

An initiative to overturn Washington state’s new 9.5 cent per gallon fuel tax increase will be on the November ballot. However, the effort won’t help truckers too much because diesel fuel tax is not included in the proposed rollback.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the ballot effort badly misses the mark.

“Trucking interests in the state of Washington clearly ought to be opposing this measure,” Spencer said. “It is hypocritical that interests within Washington are looking to exempt themselves and place a higher burden on commercial vehicles that provide needed transportation for the state. That’s absolutely poor public policy.”

The revenue from the tax increase has been earmarked to pay for $8.5 billion in road and bridgework in the next 16 years. It is slated for such projects as the replacement of the viaduct in Seattle and a new Highway 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington, linking Seattle and Bellevue, as well as congestion relief, farm-to-market projects and local roads across the state.

Secretary of State Sam Reed confirmed earlier this month that the organizers of the rollback initiative collected more than enough valid signatures to qualify for the fall ballot, The Associated Press reported.

On the ballot it will be called Initiative 912, and if approved by the state’s voters, it would repeal the full gasoline tax increase adopted by the state’s Legislature this spring. It would leave the tax boost to diesel intact.

The first 3-cent increase of the fuel tax took effect July 1, bringing the state’s tax to 31 cents per gallon. Another 3-cent bump is scheduled for next July, two more pennies a year later and a final 1.5-cent boost is scheduled for 2008.

The Legislature raised the state’s fuel tax from 23 cents to 28 cents a year ago.

Also unaffected by the ballot issue is a new vehicle weight fee, which adds between $5 and $25 to annual licensing fees, as well as tolls and local-option tax increases for cities and counties.

Those taxes combined with the higher tax on diesel would generate only about $120 million a year over the next decade, severely hampering the completion of the multibillion-dollar projects on the table, The Seattle Times reported.

OOIDA’s Spencer encourages professional truck drivers based in Washington state to make sure they cast a ballot on or before Nov. 8.

Truckers and others unable to visit a polling place on Election Day can cast their ballot by absentee. The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is Nov. 7. Contact your local election department for more information. For a list of election departments in the state, visit www.secstate.wa.gov/elections/auditors.aspx.

Ballots must be signed and postmarked or delivered to the county election officer by Election Day.

For those who are not yet registered to vote, deadlines to do so vary in Washington state. Registration by mail must be postmarked by Oct. 8. Registering in person can be done up to Oct. 24. Contact your local election department for more information.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
keith_goble@landlinemag.com

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