Republicans in Olympia operate under a strange malaise. Somehow, leadership in both the House and the Senate seem to have lost sight of The Goal. They seem incapable of understanding that we cannot regain control of either House of the Legislature by “out-democrating the democrats.”
A case in point is the upcoming gas tax increase to 43 cents per gallon… without the permission of the voters.
This increase will result in Washington State having the highest gas tax in the United States by AT LEAST 25% over the next highest state (43 cents to 32 in Wisconsin) at a time when we are experiencing the highest pump prices for gas we have ever known.
I’m given to understand from my contacts that many Legislative Republicans have expressed support for this increase. They also privately express support for ramming this tax down our collective throat, thereby validating the argument of the Libertarians that there really isn’t any difference between democrats and Republicans.
If ever there was a situation where the Republican caucuses should “lock up,” this is it.
In 2002, the people of this state spoke loudly and clearly. We overwhelmingly turned down a 9-cent per gallon gas tax increase, only to have a Republican-led Legislature impose a 5-cent per gallon gas tax increase in 2004 WITHOUT a vote. After all, we can’t let a little thing like the will of the people get in the way of someone’s agenda, can we?
Nailing us with an unwanted gas tax increase only resulted in the loss of one seat in the Senate: that of the chief supporter and architect of the gas tax increase, Senate Transportation Chair Sen. Jim Horn. Obviously, the loss of only one seat attributable to the gas tax vote was enough to persuade many legislators that ramming this increase down our collective throat is a fairly safe bet.
As a result, I fear that far too many Republicans have begun to buy into the idea that legislators are up there to “lead,” and to “take the tough vote.” Nonsense.
We truly have the government we deserve. But along with that, we truly have the transportation system we deserve.
I don’t dispute that our transportation infrastructure needs more money. That said, if the people of this state do not believe a gas tax increase is needed or merited, then we should not have one. If the people of this state do not desire a massive, 50% plus gas tax increase, then whatever transportation infrastructure results from that decision is the one we should live with.
But under no circumstances should such a massive tax increase see the light of day without the permission of the voters. And while Legislative Republicans ponder this situation, they need to ponder this: it is up to them to provide the voters with a reason to vote Republican over democrat in the legislative elections. And out-democrating the democrats ain’t the way to make that happen.