Gas Tax Scandal in Olympia: officials give away $22 million to Indian tribes; will grow to $621 million

May 9, 2011

There is a great story on KOMO News about Governor Gregoire's fuel tax compacts with Washington's Indian tribes.

In 2006, the state lost a local court battle that ruled tribes, as sovereign nations, don't have to pay the gas tax. To end future court battles, the legislature and Governor Gregoire signed off on a deal: for every gallon a tribe sells, the state pays them back 75 percent of the gas tax, or 28 cents a gallon.

This year, Washington will give tribes about $22 million in gas taxes. And the amount will certainly grow as tribes continue to add more fuel stations. According to the KOMO report, state officials will pay about $621 million to tribes over the next 17 years.

Gas taxes must be spent on projects that are subject to the 18th Amendment...on roads and highways...and the agreement with the tribes includes this provision, along with audits to ensure compliance.

However, the audits are conducted by the tribes and the results are not subject to public disclosure. In other words, how the tribe spend the gas tax money is kept secret.

Not surprisingly, the KOMO report found evidence that gas tax money is not being used as tribes claim, and tribes are using the subsidy to undercut private gas station operators. 

Here is the text of the KOMO story.
Here is the video of the KOMO story.