The House Capital Budget Committee today voted to pass House Bill 3181, known as the Clean Water Act of 2010.
Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens, voted against the legislation.
The measure would increase the state hazardous substance tax from 0.7 percent to 2 percent for the wholesale value of refined petroleum products, pesticides, and certain chemicals, including household chemicals.
“This really should be called the ‘Clean jobs out of Washington Act,’” Hope said. “We heard loud and clear from dozens of people during public testimony this tax would jeopardize 4,500 family-wage jobs on the front lines in oil refineries. More than 20,000 people in this state depend on jobs in oil refineries. The hearing room was so packed with concerned citizens and employees affected by the legislation we had to open up two extra rooms to watch the hearing on TVW, the state public affairs station.”
The Department of Revenue reports consumers will see about a 3-cent increase in gas prices as a result of this legislation.
“This is a hidden gas tax that will not only increase prices at the pump and threaten people’s jobs, it’s completely unnecessary,” Hope said. “We already have funds to distribute money for storm water runoff projects through the Model Toxics Control Act. Unfortunately, $181 million of those funds were swept up with the rest of the fund transfers in the majority party’s budget balancing act last year. Now they’re looking for new revenue and they found an easy target – oil companies.”
Proponents of the legislation say petroleum products are the most serious source of storm water contamination in the Puget Sound and other bodies of water. The Washington Policy Center, a non-partisan think tank, stated in written testimony that an independent firm found significant errors, as much as 40 percent overstatements, in Department of Ecology’s report on the source of storm water pollutants entering the Puget Sound.
“While we hear from proponents of the bill it will help restore clean water to the Puget Sound, the science isn’t there to support the claim,” Hope said. “In addition, sponsors of the legislation say this massive tax increase will help the environment, but only 32 percent of the funds raised will go toward environmental projects.”
The fiscal note on the bill estimates $229.6 million in new revenue for the 2009-11 biennium, and $475 million for the 2011-13 biennium. Sixty-eight percent of the funds raised would be distributed to the State General Fund, while just 20 percent would go to the Storm Water Account; the remaining 12 percent would go toward other environmental accounts.
“The most egregious thing about this is that it’s not a temporary tax increase, it’s a long-term new revenue stream the majority party is going after,” Hopesaid. “Employers and families are struggling right now, and they need all the relief they can get to help stabilize our economy. Tax increases only bring instability to a shaky economy and fear to families hanging on by a thread.”