Washington lawmakers want to suspend the state gas tax, economists say it’s not so simple

SPOKANE, Wash. — Republican state Senators are calling for a special session to suspend Washington’s gas tax. It seems like a quick fix, but the conversation and potential benefits are complicated.

Shelby Townsend spent $37 on Tuesday at the gas station. She can’t drive less but is paying a lot more.

“It’s not really like I have an option not to. I have to go to school and work,” she said.

To help the issue, some senators want to cut 49.4 cents off a gallon of gas. This would bring current gas prices in Spokane County down to $3.83. From an economists perspective, it isn’t a quick fix.

“Even a noticeable reduction in gas prices isn’t going to change the course of inflation measures, and a one time price change isn’t going to have much of an effect at all,” said Ryan Herzog. He’s an Associate Professor of Economics at Gonzaga University.

Herzog says gas is just a small portion of a family’s overall costs. He’s more worried about food, housing and child care remedies to inflation.

“Gas is about 4% of that basket,” he added.

Still, the savings sound good for commuters.

“It’d be really nice,” Townsend exclaimed.

Lawmakers say they’re calling for a special session based off a gas tax suspension bill that wasn’t passed in the last legislative session. They say they’re keeping the conversation alive because Washington has the money to spare.

“We had about a $15 billion dollar budget surplus this session, so the bill would have transferred $1.3 billion dollars from the general fund to the transportation fund and then suspended the state gas tax,” Simon Sefzik explained. He’s a State Senator for Washington’s 42nd Legislative District.

Sefzik says roads and overall transportation costs would still be covered by moving the funds. He believes people would simply be able to get around for less.

Another red flag Herzog is concerned about is if suppliers would just keep prices the same and pocket what would be gas tax savings. He isn’t sure if the savings would automatically be passed on to consumers.

This conversation is gaining traction all over the country as lawmakers try to help lower costs for families and fight inflation.

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