OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington State Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the state’s toxic cleanup tax. A ruling issued Thursday turns aside a challenge from gas station owners.
Back in 1988, Washington voters by citizen initiative approved a small wholesale tax on hazardous materials to pay for environmental cleanup projects. Initiative 97 was passed with 84 percent in favor. This created the Hazardous Substance Tax, which applies to oil products, pesticides and some chemicals.
When the Washington legislature recently considered increasing the tax, a gas station trade group and an independent gasoline distributor challenged its constitutionality. Their argument in a nutshell is that part of the tax falls on gas and diesel… and the state constitution says gas taxes can only be spent on highways.
But the justices on Washington’s highest court disagree. Their unanimous ruling says the state constitution offers a little more wiggle room on gas taxes than say Oregon or Idaho. The Washington Supreme Court found the toxics tax was not designed to support highways in the first place, so to spend the proceeds on pollution prevention and cleanup does not constitute an improper diversion.
The ruling maintains the status quo.
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