The Washington State Supreme Court granted the motion to hear the tribal gas tax case, Automotive United Trades Organization (AUTO) v. State of Washington.
You might recall, WPC and others filed Amicus Briefs encouraging the Court to accept direct review. Read WPC’s Amicus Brief here.
In 2006, Governor Christine Gregoire negotiated an agreement with Washington State Indian tribes that exempts tribally owned fuel stations from paying 75% of state gas taxes.
This year the state will give Indian tribes approximately $22 million in state fuel tax revenue. And the amount will certainly grow as tribes continue to add more fuel stations. Taxpayers will pay approximately $621 million to tribes over the next 17 years.
Our research indicates that tribal stations use this refund as a subsidy to consistently charge less for fuel than non-tribal stations.
Of the fuel stations we compared, the largest price disparity occurred at two tribal stations in the Bremerton area where they sold diesel for 47.8 cents less than the Bremerton-regional average. That is a $143 difference for the average semi truck that holds 300 gallons of diesel!
This competitive advantage allows tribal station owners to undercut non-tribal fuel stations, and ultimately run them out of business. WPC’s full report on gas prices will be available later this month.