By Jerry Cornfield
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee responded sharply today to a Republican senator who accused the governor of plotting to bypass lawmakers and impose a new carbon fuel tax through executive order.
Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, said Monday that Inslee needed to come clean on his future intentions.
“This is an issue of trust. We cannot ask the people of Washington and our job creators to support a 10-cent gas tax if the governor plans to add more taxes,” said King, who is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Today King got a response — and in the process the Majority Coalition Caucus also may have got some breathing room on the transportation package.
“Senator King, you have publicly called on me to “come clean” about my plans for a “carbon fuel tax.” I’d like to clearly address this issue,” Inslee wrote in a three-page letter sent to House and Senate leaders in both parties.
First, I have never proposed, nor discussed proposing, a “carbon fuel tax.” I have discussed a low carbon fuel standard as a mechanism to develop cleaner fuels for our state. There is no element of a clean fuels standard that could in any way be called a “tax.” That you choose to call it a tax suggests that this effort is more about fear mongering or excuses for inaction than an actual discussion of the costs of reducing pollution from our transportation system. That you have cited hypothetical costs in excess of one dollar per gallon reinforces my impression that this is about politics and not substance.
Inslee goes on to write:
If anyone tells you my proposal will cost money, or save money, they are not telling you the truth. No such assumptions can be made regarding a proposal that doesn’t exist, and I can assure you that no proposal from me that adds significant costs at the pump will ever materialize. I will ensure this by demanding real cost-containment measures and a thorough and very public analysis of all costs and benefits associated with any clean fuels proposal before moving forward.
That you say I have to “come clean” implies I have in some way been hiding my intentions. This is offensive and untrue. Anyone that knows me knows that I am interested in effective ways to combat carbon pollution, including cleaning up our fuels. If in the future you have questions about my intentions, I suggest you ask me.
In the meantime, the governor appears in the letter to be backing off his stance that the “next logical step” in negotiations on a transportation package is for the Senate to pass a proposal.
I ask that the Senate negotiate a package among both caucuses that can garner a majority of votes in your chamber. When you develop such a proposal, I commit to working with you to find the needed votes on a package acceptable to both chambers. I would not expect you to pass a package on the Senate floor before having assurances the package could win sufficient House votes. I believe this path offers our best chance of success, and I stand ready to work with you.
Stay tuned for a response from King and the Majority Coalition Caucus.