Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. McCave introduced bills to enact a reciprocal tax on Washington state after lawmakers in that state forwarded a bill that would tax refined fuel to Alaska and House members passed a resolution urging Washington lawmakers not to pass the bill. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. McCave introduced bills to enact a reciprocal tax on Washington state after lawmakers in that state forwarded a bill that would tax refined fuel to Alaska and House members passed a resolution urging Washington lawmakers not to pass the bill. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Alaska lawmakers push back on proposed Washington state legislation

Proposed fuel tax in Washington raises ire in Alaska

Lawmakers in Washington state have removed a provision that would tax fuel shipped to Alaska after lawmakers in other states, including Alaska, raised opposition.

The proposed legislation would enact a 6-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and diesel fuel exported from that state, prompting a strong reaction from Alaska lawmakers.

But Washington State Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, told the Empire in a phone interview the provision was taken out over the weekend.

“It’s eliminated, we’re not moving forward with that,” Fey said of the fuel tax provision.

Fey said in addition to the potential legal challenge the provision faced, affected states voiced their opposition.

“More importantly we heard from the other states about how they were viewing this, and we felt that it was not productive,” Fey said.

The Alaska House of Representatives passed a resolution Monday urging the Washington State Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee not to pass the fuel tax. The resolution said the House will take whatever actions are necessary to block “this unprovoked and reckless action against residents of our state, who should never be subject to unfair trade practices or taxation without representation.”

Alaska’s lawmakers contend that in addition to the economic burden the tax would place on residents, the law itself would violate Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which regulates taxing power.

Last week Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake, introduced two bills that would enact reciprocal taxes on Alaska products shipped to Washington. One bill — House Bill 361 — would tax fuel shipped to states that enact a tax on Alaska products and another — HB 393 — would tax seafood.

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According to the description of the bills from the Washington State Legislature, revenue generated by the fuel tax would go to implementing carbon reduction programs, infrastructure and alternative-fuel transportation in Washington.

In a statement announcing his bills, McCabe’s office said the progressive Washington Legislature was seeking to have Alaskans pay for its agenda.

“Washington’s tax would have the greatest effect on Southeast and Southwest Alaska areas and villages who import fuel from Washington to Alaska via barge,” McCabe said. “I refuse to sit quietly while Washington attempts to tax Alaskans to pay for their big-government agenda.”

In a statement, House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, said she spoke with Washington’s House Speaker Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma.

“Engaging in a trade war is counterproductive and only serves to hurt Alaskans and Washingtonians,” Stutes said.

Speaking on the floor of the House Monday, Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, said the resolution would allow lawmakers to weigh in as a body to express unified opposition to the proposed bills in Washington state.

“Clearly this tax is unconstitutional,” Spohnholz said. “It taxes Alaskans to pay for infrastructure in Washington.”

The resolution passed the House Monday with 33 yays and two nays from Reps. David Eastman and Chris Kurka, both Wasilla Republicans.

On the floor of the House McCabe said he welcomed the resolution, saying it gave weight to his bills. McCabe made reference to the movie “Die Hard,” saying to Washington state lawmakers, “welcome to the party, pal.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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