Income tax

Jay Inslee talks gas prices, emergency powers and income tax

By BRETT DAVIS

THE CENTER SQUARE

(The Center Square) – Governor Jay Inslee says help is on the way for some motorists in Washington next year.

“We passed a low-income tax credit to partially help low-income people with some of their oil prices,” Governor Inslee said on the “Seattle Morning News” podcast.

“That’s an average of about $1,200 a year that people will start getting next year who are in the lower income brackets, which may cushion some of the blow of this oil problem.”

It was, he said, “a better plan” than stopping the state gas tax in one form or another.

Currently, nearly 50 cents are added to the price of every gallon pumped in Washington for gasoline taxes, but Governor Inslee doesn’t see that as a low hanging fruit to ease people’s pain at the pump.

“What we have concluded is that putting more money in the pockets of the gas companies is not a solution to this problem because it is happening,” Governor Inslee said.

“When you like a gas tax holiday, a few things happen: one, the gas companies just raise their prices to the point they had before, so the money goes to the gas company, the gas company oil rather than the state. It doesn’t actually reduce what you pay at the pump. So all it really does is transfer the money that would be used to fix our roads and bridges and give it simply to the profit column of the oil companies.

These remarks were made on May 20. Three days prior, Inslee had addressed the issue of emergency powers and the separation of powers in a “Crosscut Talks” podcast.

Governor Inslee spoke about his February 29, 2020 declaration of a statewide emergency – still in effect – in response to the spread of COVID-19 pursuant to the Emergency Powers Act. As part of the state of emergency, Inslee issued dozens of additional proclamations, including shelter-in-place orders, business and school closures, a moratorium on evictions, and mask mandates and of vaccine.

“But the reality is that this is not some rogue executive crawling like an elephant through the tall grass of our civil liberties,” Governor Inslee said. “The Legislature has now had two or three opportunities to rescind or contravene any of the actual rules or protocols that I announced. And you know what, they upheld them. Not only did they not repeal them, but they actually confirmed them, including a bunch of Republican votes in 2021 to confirm the things we did.

The legislature and the judiciary have come to terms with the executive branch, according to the governor.

“There is no disagreement on the separation of powers,” Governor Inslee said. “We are hip-aligned on these policies.”

He also said, in response to a caller’s question about the possibility of a state income tax, “Not while I’m governor.”

Center Square sought clarification on these points from the governor’s office.

How could targeted relief next year help injure motorists this year?

If the money was just going to the oil companies, then how do pump prices come down?

If there was never a vote of the Legislature to approve a whole host of Governor Inslee’s emergency policies, then how do we know the Legislature is on board?

Has the governor completely shut the door on a state income tax, given that members of his own party have said they want one?

Mike Faulk, spokesman for the governor, did not shed more light on these issues.

“None of the governor’s recent comments during interviews need clarification,” Faulk said in an email Friday.