NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 3, 2010

The Washington legislature is considering a tax increase intended to support the state's effort to protect and restore one of Washington's most notable natural resources, the Puget Sound, and other state waterways.  The state would collect new revenues by increasing the tax rate on hazardous substances imported into Washington.  This would increase gas prices by four to six cents per gallon. 

While the tax is being sold as part of Puget Sound cleanup, lawmakers in Olympia plan to spend the collected revenue to pay for other government services not related to environmental health, says Brandon Houskeeper, a policy analyst with the Washington Policy Center.  The legislature did something similar last year, when they diverted more than $100 million away from Puget Sound priorities. 

Hazardous substances covered by the tax increase include petroleum products, pesticides and other everyday household items.  Many of these products contain chemicals that have been identified as pollutants found in stormwater runoff that eventually enter the waters of the Puget Sound, says Houskeeper: 

  • Proponents of the tax increase claim that it would raise as much as $150 million annually to support water quality enhancement activities throughout the state.
  • The proposed tax increase would be added to the hundreds of millions of dollars already collected and spent by government officials on Puget Sound cleanup.
  • However, the need for additional funding is based on a false accounting of current funding and misleading science that has since been recalculated. 

Before policymakers increase taxes on consumers, they should understand how current resources are being spent, as well as the latest science being used by proponents to support their claims for additional funding, says Housekeeper. 

By simply restoring the more than $100 million in water quality funding that was diverted during the 2009 budget, lawmakers could have the same fiscal impact on water quality enhancement without placing an additional tax burden on their constituents, says Housekeeper.        

Source: Brandon Houskeeper, "Tripling Hazardous Substance Tax Would Boost Gas Prices; New taxes not needed to protect Puget Sound," Washington Policy Center, February 25, 2010. 


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