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June 25, 2022

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Washington lawmakers eye gas tax pause as average in state cracks $5 per gallon

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Gas prices in across Washington have climbed to record highs, passing $5 per gallon.

According to AAA, the average gallon of gas in Washington was roughly $5.20 per gallon of regular on Friday.

In Vancouver, the average price was $5.21, up from $4.92 a week ago and $3.45 a year ago. While some areas on the east side of the state are still filling up at prices below $5 per gallon, the Seattle area tops the regions tracked by AAA at $5.32 per gallon for regular.

According to AAA, Washington’s gras prices are the the fourth-highest highest in the country behind California, Hawaii and Nevada.

‘Expect fuel prices to increase’

Eric Jessup is a research professor and director of the Freight Policy Transportation Institute at Washington State University, where he studies gas prices along with other pressures on freight companies across the United States.

Jessup said prices may continue to climb before they start coming down. In normal years, Jessup said, gas prices peak around the beginning of June as families leave for summer vacations and remain elevated through the beginning of September.

“Given the supply interruptions we have in Ukraine, and demand for fuel is still rising for summer travel, I would expect fuel prices to increase. Where it will top out is anybody’s guess,” Jessup said.

Gas tax suspended?

Washington’s state gas tax is a major contributor to elevated prices. At 49 cents per gallon, it’s a higher tax than every state except California and Pennsylvania.

District 20 Sen. John Braun, the Senate Republican leader, issued a statement Monday calling for a temporary suspension of the state gas tax. Lawmakers would have to convene for a special session to enact the pause. Braun said the state’s strong revenue reports show the suspension would likely not affect budgets.

“We have an affordability crisis in this state, and reducing the cost of fuel is a good way to get at that,” Braun said.

During a press conference Wednesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee shot down the idea of pausing the gas tax. Inslee said that he expected gas companies would keep prices at the pump the same if the tax was dropped, turning those 49 cents per gallon into corporate profit instead of funding for state roads and construction projects.

Jessup sided closer to Inslee’s view on the issue, saying summer’s likely increase in travel could lead to funding more state road projects through the gas tax.

“From a policy standpoint, that may or may not be what you are looking for,” Jessup said.

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