Braun: Vote ‘yes’ on Initiative 2117 and pay less


June is here, and the start of summer is just around the corner. A year ago, the first day of summer had Washington moving in front of California to have the highest gas prices in the nation.

As I write this, Washington has the third-worst average gas price in the nation. California is back to having the highest price. That’s no consolation, because the cost of gas here is still far more than in Oregon and Idaho.

The culprit all along has been our state’s cap-and-tax law. Washington voters can and should repeal that law in November by voting for Initiative 2117.

In the year since Washington’s average gas price shot to a national high, families and employers across our state have learned that the harm caused by the Democrats’ Climate Commitment Act, as cap-and-tax is officially called, goes well beyond the pump.

When this past winter came along, many natural-gas customers in Washington saw a new line item on their bills associated with the increased costs of complying with cap-and-tax. But not customers of Puget Sound Energy (PSE), which has some 900,000 natural-gas customers: PSE was forbidden by state regulators to disclose that information — on the advice of none other than Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Meanwhile, this year’s legislative session produced a law that creates a path for a natural-gas ban. It would enable PSE to force their natural-gas customers to switch to electric power for heating, with that conversion costing homeowners up to $70,000 each.

Republicans opposed this sweetheart deal for our state’s largest monopoly utility, which wouldn’t have even been proposed if PSE wasn’t trying to get out from under the costs of cap-and-tax.

Before the Senate vote on House Bill 1589, we pointed out errors that led the lieutenant governor — in his role as president of the Senate – to describe that legislation as a “hot mess.” But again, AG Ferguson injected himself, advising Democratic legislators that they could proceed with the bill despite its flaws.

Anyone wanting to repeal this wrong-headed law and end the natural-gas ban before it takes hold and expands should hunt down a petition for Initiative 2066 and sign it. Let’s get that measure on the ballot this year.

The cap-and-tax law also shows the Democrats’ disrespect for our state’s agricultural and maritime sectors. Farmers and others who purchase off-road fuel are supposed to be exempt from the extra cost tied to the Climate Commitment Act, but the Department of Ecology refused to uphold the promise made in the law — and Democrats wouldn’t join with Republicans to force the agency’s compliance through legislation.

The updates made to the state budget in March finally offer some reimbursement to fuel buyers who are being gouged by the executive branch’s failure. Unfortunately, it’s nowhere near full reimbursement of the fuel surcharge tied to cap-and-tax.

Initiative 2117 is one of the six voter initiatives submitted to the Legislature ahead of this year’s session. It’s one of the three measures that are automatically going to the November ballot because Democrats refused to bring all six to a vote while we were at the Capitol.

Gov. Jay Inslee and many Democratic legislators wanted what they call cap-and-trade for a very long time before forcing it through in the lockdown session of 2021. They denied it would inflate gas prices, with Inslee going so far to say the effect would be “minimal” or “pennies.”

After the cap-and-tax law took full effect in 2023, gas prices soared, showing Inslee’s “pennies” claim was either ignorant or dishonest. The governor pivoted to blaming oil companies for the increase, but all these months later, he has yet to explain why prices in Oregon and Idaho have not risen like Washington’s — even though the fuel for the entire northwest comes from the same oil companies or same refineries.

The answer is simple: Those states don’t have cap-and-tax laws like Washington and California.

Soon the fate of the costly cap-and-tax scheme will be in the hands of the voters. Democrats have become so terrified of I-2117 that they aren’t stopping at a disinformation campaign.

Inslee’s office is also directing state agencies to use specific language and artwork to promote the cap-and-tax law — calling it a “funding acknowledgement.” It’s unethical.

One of those agencies is the state Department of Commerce, which has started to very publicly rain tens of millions in cap-and-tax revenue on various governments, including tribal nations in southwest Washington.

When Inslee signed the cap-and-tax bill in 2021 he upset tribes by vetoing a section that would have given them a bigger seat at the table. It even caused one tribal leader to label the governor a “snake.”

A few short years later, with a general election on the horizon, Inslee is in a position to leverage the pain people feel at the pump into an effort to buy goodwill with tribal leaders who felt betrayed by him.

The signature petitions for Initiative 2117 accurately promoted it as a way to stop the “hidden gas tax.” The costs of complying with the cap-and-tax law function as a gas tax because they are passed on to buyers, but you won’t see that on the gas-tax stickers placed on gas pumps – so it’s hidden.

Unlike the state’s gas tax, the revenue from cap-and-tax doesn’t go toward building and maintaining highways and bridges. As proof, a late-May announcement about handing out millions of cap-and-tax dollars to tribes notes four of the five projects are about solar energy.

I and every Republican legislator would have voted for I-2117 if we had been given the opportunity while we were in session. I will vote for it in November and encourage others to do the same (along with the other initiatives, whether there are a total of three or we also get I-2066 as a fourth).

Even though we are more than five months out from the November general election, the Democrats and their allies are already stepping up their efforts to sell voters on the Climate Commitment Act and mislead them about I-2117.

Don’t be fooled. The cap-and-tax law has increased the cost of energy for families and employers at a time when many are already struggling with inflated prices; passing I-2117 will repeal the law.

Vote yes, pay less. Remember that when you’re at the gas pump.


Sen. John Braun of Centralia serves the 20th Legislative District, which spans parts of four counties from Yelm to Vancouver. He became Senate Republican leader in 2020.