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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Fall is in the air as summer comes to an end. One thing that doesn’t seem to be getting any better are the fuel prices in Washington state. I would like to share a quick update on that issue and a proposal House Republicans are working on to help provide some relief to families in our state.

Most of you are aware, Washington state has battled California for most of the summer for the highest fuel prices in the nation. As prices hovered around $5 a gallon, more than a third of Washington drivers canceled summer travel plans over high gas prices.

The governor’s office has blamed rising fuel prices on the oil companies, but that is inaccurate. Washington state has the highest, or close to the highest, gas prices in the country because of the governor’s climate cap-and-trade program that went into effect in January. He originally said the program would cost consumers “pennies” but it is costing most Washington families about $500 per year.

The governor’s cap-and-trade program also known as the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) is costing motorists nearly three times more than what the government estimated at the time lawmakers voted to pass this policy. As you can see by the chart below the increase in gas prices has been dramatic since the CCA went into effect.

The CCA requires regulated parties — industry and utilities that emit greenhouse gases — to buy carbon allowances for emissions that are over an annual “cap” or emissions limit that is set by the state. The cost of those allowances at the quarterly state auction has been much higher than originally projected. That is expected to continue to increase fuel prices as the auction prices continue to outpace estimates.

As of Monday, Washingtonians are paying $5.03 for a gallon of gas, with California at $5.82. Oregon is at $4.67 while Idaho is paying $4.13. Our prices remain $1.19 higher than the national average of $3.84.

Our farmers and ranchers are also being impacted. During the debate on the cap-and-trade program, proponents assured lawmakers—and the public—that fuels used for producing and transporting agricultural products would be exempt. The exemption was supposed to apply to aviation and marine fuels as well. Unfortunately, that has not happened.

During the 2023 session, legislation was introduced to reimburse members of our agricultural community for those additional costs. However, the majority party refused to give the bill a hearing or consider similar amendments on the House floor.

It should also be noted that the cap-and-trade revenue is not going to our roads. The CCA is not covered under our state’s 18th Amendment, which requires gas taxes and vehicle license fees to be spent on transportation projects. The CCA money goes into the state’s operating budget.

Republicans offer rebate

House Republicans are working on some solutions to address the rising cost of fuel, including giving taxpayers some of the excess revenue already collected through the CCA.

We are working on legislation called the Carbon Auction Rebate or CAR, program. It would send a $100 Carbon Auction Rebate (CAR) on July 1, 2024, to registered vehicle owners in Washington state. To learn more about this innovative program and how it would work, click here.

This is not the only solution legislators are considering. I mentioned in a previous email update two other options a couple of Washington state senators are working on. For more information on those proposals you can read the articles below.

Also, I have signed on to a letter submitted to the Department of Ecology by approximately 43 legislators, proposing changes to the cap-and-trade program. You can read that letter here.

Legislators need to work together in the upcoming session to provide relief to those who need it most – the working middle class, those on a fixed income, folks who travel long distances for work and our farmers. I expect more proposals and ideas to be on the table when the 2024 legislative session gets started.

If you have any questions, concerns or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me. Your input and feedback is important to me.

It is an honor and a privilege to represent the 4th Legislative District.

Suzanne Schmidt

State Representative Suzanne Schmidt, 4th Legislative District
468 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7820 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000