The Washington state Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that the state’s hazardous substances tax is constitutional.
The high court upheld a King County Superior Court ruling that found the state is not precluded from using the current tax of 0.7 percent imposed on oil products, pesticides and other chemicals for environmental cleanup projects. The state has said the tax, approved by voters in 1988, brings in about $125 million a year for those projects.
The Automotive United Trades Organization and California-based Tower Energy Group had argued that that the levy is a gas tax that should be used only for highways and roads under the state Constitution’s 18th amendment, which dedicates motor fuel tax collections to highway purposes.
The high court ruling, written by Justice Jim Johnson, said “nothing in that constitutional provision indicates that any new tax similar to a gas tax would require the Legislature to use the funds for highway purposes.”
The court wrote that the hazardous substances tax “statute was enacted to tax toxic substances, including motor vehicle fuel, for the purpose of cleaning up spills of hazardous substances,” and, “as a result, funds from the HST levied against motor vehicle fuel do not have to be used for highway purposes because they were never restricted to be used only for highway purposes.” (AP)