With $1.50 charge for each barrel of oil refined here now off the table, the governor and Legislature will have to turn to other driver fees, such as increased charges for studded tires or for vehicle weight.
Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal to impose a $1.50 charge on every barrel of oil refined in Washington state has hit a dead end.
The barrel charge — to raise $2.75 billion for highway maintenance, in a $3.6 billion package for state and local transportation — lacks support, a pair of leading senators said Thursday.
“We’ve stripped the $1.50 out, and we’re looking now at (driver) fees,” said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee.
Such fees could include additional weight charges on motor vehicles, higher fees to renew driver’s licenses, and surcharges on studded tires. Fees can be increased by lawmakers without a citizen vote, and nearly were in 2011.
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Haugen said a barrel charge probably would be declared a general “tax” by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, and there’s no way it could win a two-thirds legislative majority for tax hikes, as required by Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053, or even win half the Senate votes.
“There’s a lot of reasons,” she said. “They listen to the oil companies. There’s also a rationale, what is a barrel of oil?” A barrel tax would affect aviation fuel and marine diesel, beyond just raising gas prices a few cents for motorists.
Haugen also says a state ballot measure for transportation is unlikely, because leaders think there can be only one measure this year — a sales tax to mend education and the social-services safety net.
However, she did sponsor a bill that would let cities and counties enact local gas taxes of up to 3 cents a gallon, plus higher car-tab fees or taxes.
Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, agreed a state barrel tax is doomed for 2012, but might return for discussion next year.
“For us to keep moving forward in this state, we’ll have to step up on a more significant transportation package,” Brown said.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or email@example.com. On Twitter @mikelindblom.