Sefzik FUEL Act would eliminate state gas tax for remainder of year, slash gas prices 49.4 cents a gallon
Sefzik makes 9th Order motion on Senate floor March 8, 2022. To see video, click here.
OLYMPIA – A proposal from Sen. Simon Sefzik to give Washington consumers a $1 billion break on fuel costs was shot down Tuesday after Republicans attempted to advance the bill on the Senate floor.
Sefzik attempted an unusual “9th Order” motion on the Senate floor to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote despite efforts by majority Democrats to leave the measure bottled up in committee. Sefzik’s FUEL Act, Senate Bill 5897, would suspend the state gas tax for the remainder of the year, giving every motorist in Washington state an immediate 49.4-cent discount on every gallon of gas they purchase.
Sefzik noted that gas prices are at record highs in Washington state, at a time when state coffers are awash in money. State economists predict tax collections will exceed last session’s projections by about $10 billion, and the state’s surplus is even higher due to unspent federal COVID relief funds and other sources.
“This bill would simply allow a suspension of the gas tax here in Washington state. It is not a paycheck to gas companies. The bill ensures that doesn’t occur. It does not take away from other transportation priorities – it transfers money from the general fund.”
Sefzik’s FUEL Act is short for Fighting Unaffordable Energy Laws. His effort to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote was the first time his proposal has surfaced during the 2022 legislative session. Majority Democrats declined to hold a hearing on the measure in committee and refused to bring it up for a vote.
By moving for the 9th Order, a motion allowing the full Senate to bring a bill to the floor, the freshman senator attempted a parliamentary maneuver usually entrusted to the most wizened of lawmakers. Democrats objected that the tax break would upset their plans to spend the money rather than returning it to taxpayers.
The motion failed 28-21.
Sefzik said he was disappointed his proposal to cut gas prices did not receive consideration during the 2022 session. With just two days to go before adjournment, the Legislature’s opportunity to use its windfall for tax relief will end soon.
“With all this extra money available to us, you’d think we could use a little of it to ease the burden for taxpayers,” Sefzik said. “We’re all hurting right now because of high gas prices. This is an extremely regressive burden for low-income households, because they must pay a higher percentage of their income for motor fuel.
“I hate to think we are sitting on the biggest pot of money the Legislature has ever had, yet our colleagues are planning to adjourn without doing a thing to provide relief from high taxes. In fact, our colleagues are moving forward with plans to collect a new income tax next year we clearly do not need. If we adjourn without doing anything for tax relief, it will be one of the biggest opportunities the Legislature has ever missed.”