Rep. Peter Abbarno: The Real Impact of Higher Gas Prices
The real impact of higher gas prices is not only felt at the pump. The real impact of higher gas prices is felt at the kitchen table. It is kitchen table issues such as the cost of food, utilities and traveling to work and school that force families, seniors and individuals on fixed incomes to make hard sacrifices.
I was in Woodland last week discussing the impact rising gas prices have on small business owners. The most frequent response was that “we just can't cut anymore.” When gas prices rise, so does the cost of goods and services. While some small businesses can absorb those costs without raising their prices, the majority pass the cost on to the customer. That means the cost of bread, eggs, electricity, fruit and vegetables, and professional services increase as well.
Tenino recently cut the ribbon on a new park and pump track that was partially funded through the state capital budget. Before the ceremony, a single mother and her daughter thanked me for supporting parks and helping fund their local park. Every week, she reviews her budget at the kitchen table and considers what they will need to sacrifice. Rising fuel prices limit family activities, so local events and public parks are more important now than ever.
Rising gas prices also mean charitable organizations can no longer provide as many goods and services as was previously possible.
My family is honored to have the opportunity to volunteer with the Hub City Mission in downtown Centralia. The mission hosts a fresh food market, prepares boxed meals and delivers food to financially struggling community members. Over the past couple years, the lines have been getting longer and the cost of fuel in my vehicle to deliver the boxed meals is more expensive. The price of food is on the rise and donations are harder to secure.
These are some examples of the real impact of higher gas prices.
Some will blame “big oil company” profits; Washington's gas tax, which is among the highest in the country; or the new carbon fees and regulations adding over 50 cents more to a gallon of gas.
Hopefully we can all agree the cost of gas is too high and the regressive impact hurts those in our community who can least afford to pay. We can do better.
The state of Washington should reduce the gas tax and reform the way our transportation budget is funded. There were numerous proposals in the Legislature by House and Senate Republicans to develop a better method of funding transportation projects without inequitably falling on the shoulders of families, small businesses and seniors at the pump, and ultimately at their kitchen table. Those proposals were ignored while gas taxes increased, and new carbon policies pushed the cost of fuel higher.
Washington must reevaluate extreme environmental policies with regressive costs that force children deeper into cycles of intergenerational poverty. Financial security is uniquely connected to a person's health and well-being. There must be balance to environmental policies that help reduce carbon, improve air and water quality, and protect and restore habitat. Environmental policies creating financial insecurity for families make a healthy and prosperous future less attainable for the next generation.
The real impact of higher gas prices is being felt at kitchen tables across Washington. Working families should not have to sacrifice the health and prosperity of their families. Washington can do better, and we should expect better in the upcoming legislative session and upcoming election year.
This op-ed appeared in The Chronicle on June 27, 2023: Peter Abbarno Commentary: The Real Impact of Higher Gas Prices