In Washington State’s 14th legislative district, a tax rebellion is growing against Republican State Senator Curtis King, acknowledged architect, author, and champion of Washington State’s most recent gas tax increase. In November, local voters will have an opportunity to demonstrate whether this rebellion will have an impact at the ballot box.
Washington’s 14th legislative district is mostly rural containing all of Klickitat and Skamania Counties, as well as a large portion of Yakima County and a small slice of Clark County. The City of Yakima is the largest city in this legislative district. Senator Curtis King was born in Yakima, and 2016 is the first re-election where he has an opponent on the ballot. King was originally elected to the position when the previous state senator retired early and King defeated the appointed incumbent in 2007. He was elected in 2008 and 2012 unchallenged by anyone. This year is different.
King’s unpopular tax hike invites challenge
In 2016, King faces an opponent from his own party. Challenger Amanda Richards is a 14-year resident from Klickitat County running as an “Independant GOP.” King’s well publicized championing of the largest gas tax increase in Washington State history (SB 5987) was a large part of the motivation for Richards to challenge him this election year.
As chairman of the State Senate Transportation Committee, Senator King was able to push through the 11.9 cents per gallon tax increase, which ensures Washington State drivers pay the second highest gas tax in the nation at 49.4 cents per gallon (Pennsylvania’s drivers pay 50.3 cents per gallon). When the Federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon is included, Washington State’s drivers pay 67.8 cents per gallon of fuel every time they fill up at the pump. This might be chump change to politicians and bureaucrats in Olympia, but to average citizens it adds up quickly to take a real bite out of a family’s budget.
Unlike most states, Washington voters have an opportunity to vote on tax increases (thanks to initiative 960). These votes are called “advisory votes” and they serve as an opportunity for voters to register their support or opposition to tax increases passed by the legislature and the governor. Based on the advisory vote totals from 2015 (64% voted to repeal the tax increase state-wide) , voters strongly opposed this gas tax hike and in Senator King’s district, the opposition was even more pronounced at( 77% to repeal in Yakima, 76% to repeal in Skamania, 75% to repeal in Klickitat) .
King knows better than the children who voted for him
Throwing fuel on this fire of tax hike opposition, Senator King went on a King5 interview in February of last year and compared the voters in his district to “children” who need discipline. Not surprisingly this quote has fueled some of the growing opposition to Senator King, and this audio clip was featured in a video created by the Richards campaign…