FILE – Inslee vaccine mandate

Gov. Jay Inslee at a press conference in Seattle on Aug. 9, 2021 announcing a new vaccine requirement. 

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

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

“It’s an average of about $1,200 a year people will start receiving next year who are in the lower income brackets that can cushion some of the shock of this oil problem.”

This was, he said, “a better plan” than halting the state gas tax in some form.

Currently, almost 50 cents are tacked onto the price of every gallon pumped in Washington for state-based gas taxes, but Inslee does not see that as low hanging fruit for easing people’s pain at the pump.

“What we’ve concluded is just putting more money into the gas companies’ pockets is not a solution to this problem because that’s what happens,” Inslee said.

“When you do like a gas tax holiday, a couple things happen: One, the gas companies just raise their prices to the point that they had it before, so the money goes to the gas company, to the oil company rather than to the state. It doesn’t actually reduce what you’re paying at the pump. So all it really does is transfer the dollars that would be going into fixing our roads and bridges and just gives it to the profit column of the oil companies.”

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

Inslee talked about his Feb. 29, 2020 declaration of a statewide emergency – still in effect – in response to the spread of COVID-19 per the Emergency Powers Act. Under the state of emergency, Inslee has issued scores of additional proclamations including shelter-in-place orders, business and school closures, a moratorium on evictions, and mask and vaccine mandates.

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 Not only have they not repealed them, they have actually confirmed them, including a bunch of Republican votes in 2021 to actually confirm the things we have done.”

The legislative branch and the judicial branch have agreed with the executive branch, according to the governor.

“There’s no separation of powers disagreement,” Inslee said. “We’re aligned at the hip 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.”

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

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

If the money would simply go to oil companies, then how do pump prices fall?

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

Was the governor shoving the door completely shut on a state income tax, in light of the fact that members of his own party have said they want one?

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

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

Staff Reporter

Brett Davis reports on Washington state government for The Center Square. He previously worked for public policy organizations the Freedom Foundation and Washington Farm Bureau, as well as various community newspapers.