Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Tri-City Herald and The Seattle Times. Editorial content from other publications is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
Gov. Jay Inslee believes Washington state will be unrecognizable in 100 years if we don’t significantly cut our reliance on fossil fuels.
There will be no salmon because the rivers will be too hot. Mountains won’t have as much snow and our forests will be burned away. Those are his predictions if we don’t act now to combat climate change.
Inslee met with the Tri-City Herald editorial board last week to promote his latest proposal to reduce carbon pollution. His passion to turn Washington into a fossil fuel-free, clean energy state comes from a fervent belief we are headed toward an environmental catastrophe and we must do everything we can to avoid it.
His commitment to protecting human health and the state’s natural beauty is admirable. But Senate Bill 6203 will burden some people more than others, and that isn’t fair.
The proposal — also known as the carbon tax bill — would impose an additional $10 per metric ton on carbon dioxide emissions in 2019. The amount would increase over time to $30 per metric ton by 2029.
The money raised would go to clean energy efforts and projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also might encourage more people to buy vehicles that don’t run solely on fossil fuel, Inslee said. But adding that extra tax will mean gas prices will go up, and so will heating bills.
An analysis by the Washington Policy Center estimates the average family will spend $125 more on gasoline per year in 2019, and $375 more a year in 2029 if the tax is approved.
While SB 6203 provides ways to help low-income people bear the tax — like providing help with utility bills and rebates on car tabs — only those under a certain income level will qualify.
The bill has made it out of the Senate Energy, Environment & Technology Committee and is awaiting further action.
Inslee mentioned that if lawmakers don’t approve a plan to reduce carbon emissions this session, there is a good chance a citizens initiative would end up going to voters.
He said that likely would result in a new law that lacks the “nuance” of his current proposal.
We agree bills that make their way through the legislative process are typically more thoughtful than initiatives.
We want less pollution in our state, and Inslee’s predictions of an unrecognizable Washington are concerning.
But the solution shouldn’t hurt some people more than others. SB 6203, as written, is not the answer.
State Dems on wrong side of open records fight
Democrats have been in full control of the state Capitol for less than three months, and quickly they are proving they are not the party of transparency and open government.
The latest example came Saturday, when the state Senate and its new Democratic majority approved legislation that would exempt state employees’ birth dates from public disclosure.
That same day, the Senate approved an automatic voter-registration bill that would simultaneously strip dates and months of birth from Washington’s public voter rolls.
Both these measures would severely limit the ability of the public and the press to identify people who may have past criminal records — individuals who could be working in local schools, living down the street or running for public office. The state House should ensure neither proposal sees the light of day.
Without precise dates of birth, journalists cannot definitively track people with similar or identical names who may move from jurisdiction to jurisdiction or school district to school district. In a series called “Coaches Who Prey,” Times reporters used dates of birth to help track teachers and coaches who transferred between districts after being accused of inappropriate relationships with students.
In a self-serving move, the amended version of the voter-registration bill would still disclose a person’s birth year, allowing legislators to target voters by age group using mailers and door-to-door campaigning in their upcoming re-election bids.
State Sen. Jeannie Darneille, a Tacoma Democrat who sought the amendment, said she is concerned about protecting voters from identity theft. But Darneille’s amendment to Senate Bill 6353 renders the otherwise noble effort to expand automatic voter-registration unacceptable.
Gov. Jay Inslee and other Democrats have said state employees’ birth dates should be protected for similar privacy reasons. But Senate Bill 6079, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Patty Kuderer of Bellevue, really is about something else: Keeping the conservative Freedom Foundation from contacting state employees, as the group has done in the past to tell certain workers of their right not to pay union dues.
This isn’t about whether you agree with the Freedom Foundation’s war on public-sector unions. Fundamentally, Inslee and other Democratic politicians can’t decry a piece of mail or a knock on the door as an unspeakable privacy violation when they regularly use those same methods to ask people for their votes. The entire effort to shield dates of birth comes across as Democrats pandering to the Service Employees International Union, a major Democratic campaign contributor, during a key election year.
When it comes to voter registrations, obscuring dates of birth also makes it more difficult for Democrats to defend the integrity of the state’s voter rolls as President Donald Trump and other Republicans spew unfounded claims about voter fraud.
Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, has done the public a great disservice by allowing these bills through the Senate.
House leaders and Inslee should reject these measures as an assault on government transparency. The governor has presented himself as a leader when it comes to open-government issues, releasing emails and other documents that legislators refuse to disclose and admirably not exercising executive privilege. Signing these bills would only undermine his credibility in this area.
Nelson and other Democratic senators might not remember who they work for. Their top priority should be serving the public, not the special-interest groups that bankroll their campaigns.
Now it is up to Speaker of the House Frank Chopp and his colleagues to embrace this value.