Braun says tax hike targets blue-collar jobs, rural areas

OLYMPIA…Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia and budget leader for the Senate Republican Caucus, offered the following comments about his vote to oppose Senate Bill 5993, which would make controversial changes to the state’s Model Toxics Control Act, including a tax increase of nearly 60 percent on certain petroleum products.

“The fund created by the MTCA has supported many good environmental-cleanup projects over 30 years, but past legislatures have limited its effectiveness by regularly sweeping money out of the fund to use for other expenses. Tonight the Senate majority made it less effective by changing the way MTCA revenue is distributed, so 60 percent goes to the operating budget and only 25 percent goes to the capital budget. That’s completely backwards if you’re serious about cleaning up toxic sites. The numbers just don’t work.

“I support the idea of calculating the hazardous-substance tax based on volume instead of sales price, to bring more stability to the fund, but that change can be made without including an almost 60-percent tax increase that will threaten one of our state’s leading industries. This is bad for refineries and the great blue-collar jobs they provide in our state, primarily in rural areas. It will undoubtedly translate to higher fuel costs at the pump, and more cost for commuters and residents of our rural areas, who drive longer distances. And worst of all, this tax increase is completely unnecessary at a time when state government is collecting a record level of revenue.

“This bill is not about keeping Washington beautiful. This is about punishing an industry, penalizing commuters, and potentially putting blue-collar workers and tradespeople out of work.”