Seattle Times Editorial urges look at tribal gas tax agreements

May 5, 2014

Last week, The Seattle Times editorial board suggested the state Supreme Court should look into gas tax diversion. According to their editorial, former State Auditor Brian Sonntag looked at tribal agreements for fuel tax refunds he says the tribes aren’t eligible for. At tribal gas pumps, gas taxes are paid by the wholesaler, not the tribe.

Sonntag’s analysis suggests tribal gas tax refunds could be diverted to other purposes. Over the next decade, he says the state could pay $340 million to $597 million in gas tax refunds to tribes. Those funds must be spent for highway purposes, but the agreements don’t allow for public audits to confirm the money is being spent appropriately.

Three years ago, Washington Policy Center filed an Amicus Brief in the AUTO vs. State of Washington case, citing research that indicated tribal gas stations consistently charge less for fuel than the regional average. This competitive advantage allows tribal station owners to undercut non-tribal fuel stations, and ultimately run them out of business.