WASHINGTON — For the first time in his campaign, U.S. Senate hopeful Michael Baumgartner has proposes to raise taxes — a penny-a-gallon increase in the 18.4-cent federal gas tax.
Baumgartner, a Republican freshman state senator from Spokane who is running against Maria Cantwell, would not use the extra money to shore up the chronically underfunded Highway Trust Fund. Instead, he would reserve the estimated $2 billion a year in extra revenue to provide medical care for veterans.
The tax plan is the second time this week Baumgartner has staked out a position on high-profile issues ahead of his first debate with Cantwell next Friday. On Wednesday, he announced his support for Initiative 502 that will ask Washington residents to legalize retail sales of small amounts of marijuana to adults.
Cantwell opposes legalizing recreational use of pot, though she said she would abide by the voters’ decision in November.
Baumgartner said the penny increase in the gas tax would be temporary and expire once the number of U.S. troops in global “conflict zones” drops below 1,000. Currently, there are some 68,000 U.S. trooops in Afghanistan alone.
Baumgartner and Cantwell will hold a televised debate in Seattle October 12.