BY MARK HULST
With the July 8 deadline fast approaching, thousands of everyday, hard working men and women are hustling to get 225,000 valid signatures in the first step toward repealing the recently passed 9 cent-per-gallon gas tax. I am proud to be a member of this committed group and believe it is time for all of us to fight this unfair and inappropriate tax.
I am appalled the Democrats rushed this tax through without first ensuring the Department of Transportation was properly spending the 5 cent-per-gallon tax passed in 2003-just two years ago. The Legislature passed a bill last session allocating $4 million to fund performance audits of the Department of Transportation, so why couldn't the Democrats wait until the audits were completed? Good management dictates that you know what you are spending and where before you seek additional funding. As has been said before by myself and countless others, what we need is real accountability in state government for where our tax dollars go.
There isn't one person in this state who doesn't understand the need to improve our highways and roads. What we don't understand is why we can't have better management and accountability in how these projects are handled.
Also, how does a 9 cent-a-gallon tax to pay for rebuilding the Alaska Way Viaduct and the 520 floating bridge help the hop ranchers in Moxee, or the orchardists in Yakima, or the wheat farmers near Spokane? It doesn't! The only people who are going to really benefit from this gas tax are those in Seattle. Little, if any, benefit will be seen by taxpayers in rural counties or small town communities throughout Eastern Washington or other parts of the state.
Granted, the Democrats did earmark one cent of the 9 cent gas tax for local governments to improve roads in their immediate areas. But what this means is that roughly one-third of Washington's population will be paying a tax on which they will receive only a pittance in benefits. When does the time come when the rest of the state stops paying for the troubles of Seattle?
In addition, local taxes will have to be raised, in addition to the 9 cent gas tax, for communities to qualify for this funding. If a community votes no to additional taxes, they lose funding for their local road projects, but still have to pay the gas tax.
Backers of the new gas tax call this an incentive. In the old days, we called it blackmail.
The fact is the 5 cent gas tax and this latest 9 cent gas tax are extremely regressive; hitting the poorest of the poor hardest. These additional taxes will cost the poorest families approximately $150 per year; money desperately needed for food and other family needs. The Democrats' rush to pass this tax invalidates their claims of protecting the 'little guy.'
Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say 'No' to the tax-and-spend Seattle liberals who believe our taxes are for their improvements. Now is the time for all Republicans to stand up and protect Washington's taxpayers. Now is the time to tell Olympia that we have found our voice and that voice says, 'No more wasteful spending.'
I urge everyone to sign the petition to repeal the gas tax. If you have already signed, then make sure your family members and your neighbors have signed this most important petition. Together, we can make a positive difference for all of Washington state.
Mark Hulst is the former chairman of the Skagit County Republican Party and chairman of GoWashington, a political action committee dedicated to electing Republicans to the Washington State Senate, House of Representatives, and County Councils/Commissions.