Washington about to have 2nd highest gas tax in the nation

OLYMPIA — Washington’s fuel tax is climbing again and so, too, are car tab fees.

On July 1, the gas tax will rise by 4.9 cents and make the state’s rate the second highest in the nation.

The increase will push the state tax to 49.4 cents per gallon, trailing only Pennsylvania with a current rate of 50.3 cents, based on figures compiled by the American Petroleum Institute.

In Washington, this will be the second and final installment of an 11.9-cent hike approved by Gov. Jay Inslee and state lawmakers in 2015 to help pay for $16 billion in improvements for the state’s transportation system through 2031.

Under that plan, an estimated $9.4 billion is to be spent on state and local road projects, $1.4 billion on maintaining existing highways and $1.3 billion for multimodal projects including buses, bike paths and pedestrian walkways.

In Snohomish County, roughly $670 million is allotted for road, transit and ferry projects in the next 15 years.

It’s hard to predict what drivers will encounter at the pump when the tax goes up.

In Washington, the gas tax isn’t directly paid there. Rather, since 1999, the state has collected fuel taxes at the point of distribution, which means fuel wholesalers pay it at the time they make their purchases from distributors. This is commonly known as “tax at the rack” and means that by the time the gas reaches the gas station, the tax is paid.

Meanwhile, the gas tax isn’t all that is rising July 1 to help finance the transportation package.

Money also will be generated from a boost in vehicle registration fees, ranging from $15 to $35 a year depending on the weight of the vehicle. For example, the fee for a passenger vehicle weighing 4,000 pounds or less will increase by $15, from $10 to $25, according to the state Department of Licensing.

Fees for trucks, commercial vehicles, and other types of vehicles up to 10,000 pounds that are not subject to the state’s $30 basic registration fee also will increase. Like other motor vehicles, the amount of this increase will range from $15 to $35 a year.

These higher fees will be in place starting July 1. However, they are assessed based on the expiration date of the tabs so vehicle owners won’t pay them until renewing their tabs.

Also going up July 1 is the electric vehicle renewal fee. It is collected to offset the impact of electric vehicles, which pay little or no fuel taxes, on our state’s roads and highways. The fee will climb to $150, a $50 jump.

And the price of an enhanced driver license or enhanced identification card is rising to $9-per-year, or $54 for a standard six-year license. The enhanced driver licenses and identification cards can be used by U.S. citizens in place of a passport at U.S. land and sea border crossing stations.

Additional information on the changes can be found on the Department of Licensing website, www.dol.wa.gov.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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