Washington state is home to five oil refineries. These facilities are situated along the shores of Puget Sound for ease of shipping, but their location also means they pollute the surrounding water, air, and land. Everyone living in the region is harmed, contributing to and exacerbating existing racial health disparities.

Companies refine fuel at these facilities and then sell it in other states — they export it. Washington state legislators are currently considering a $0.06 tax on these export sales to help fund our transportation systems.

At the House Transportation Committee’s hearing on February 17, oil company executives and leaders from other states testified against this tax, saying it would be bad for businesses and consumers in other places. They suggested funding our state ferry system from other sources instead — including, potentially, funds currently allocated for public transit and active transportation projects.

We reject the suggestion that Washington should raid transit funds in favor of cheap oil. Oil refineries harm people, our land, and our water. As the state that bears these costs we have the right to issue taxes in ways that support the health and prosperity our whole communities.

Taxing fuel is also part of how we all transition to a lower-carbon future, and we encourage our neighboring states to be partners in this effort. Washington is already experiencing the impact of climate catastrophe and our neighbor states are too. We hope elected leaders in our neighboring states can recognize that we should all be striving to find alternatives to oil — not fighting to keep it as cheap as possible.

We hope to see this tax go through. If, however, legislators are forced to find other sources of revenue, funding should absolutely not come from transit and active transportation dollars. Transit dollars serve Washington’s most economically vulnerable residents and it is cowardly to take funds from this part of the budget to satisfy cravings for cheap oil. Transit is also a significant part of how we will reach our carbon reduction goals, and taking funds from transit to allow oil to be cheaper is doubly harmful to reaching those goals. If anything, we recommend taking budget from highway expansion projects instead.

Leaders from other states and oil corporations are not the people who vote for Washington legislators. And on the question of what’s most beneficial for people who do, the matter is clear: Taxing oil exports is the right thing to do for Washington residents. We support the state legislators working to put this tax into action.

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