Gov. Jay Inslee gave his State of the State address earlier this week. We agree with some of his points and we don’t agree with others. One topic we differ on is a carbon tax.
Inslee is urging legislators to pass a $20 per ton carbon tax during the current legislative session. We urge you to call your local legislators and tell them to vote “no” on carbon tax legislation.
The Legislature has been split on a carbon tax. The three legislators in Washington’s 19th Legislative District have indicated they are against enacting a carbon tax. Reps. Brian Blake and Jim Walsh, and Sen. Dean Takko understand the harmful repercussions on citizens and businesses who would bear the burden of higher taxes and fewer jobs.
If passed, money raised from a carbon tax reportedly would fund schools; provide incentives for renewable energy, such as solar energy; be applied to research for new clean technologies; manage storm water runoff; help prevent forest fires; and more.
While all of these issues are worthwhile, the effects of a carbon tax on citizens and businesses far outweighs the benefits, which is why we don’t support the tax.
The governor’s staff indicated a carbon tax likely will increase power rates 4 percent to 5 percent for electricity, 9 percent to 11 percent for natural gas and 6 percent to 9 percent for gasoline.
If a carbon tax law is passed, utilities such as the Cowlitz PUD, will be negatively impacted and we believe the power rate increases would be pushed much higher than the governor’s staff estimates. Citizens and businesses can’t afford those types of increases.
Carbon tax supporters will bring up the need to fully fund schools, but remember, in last year’s budget, the State Supreme Court ruled the Legislature to fully fund education. The funding begins one year later than expected, which is why politicians will try to use this “loophole” to say education is not being fully funded.
Gov. Inslee has said the one-year funding discrepancy should be paid for out of the nearly $2 billion in state reserves, and we agree. This is exactly what reserves are for — one-time budget shortfalls. The cash is available to bridge the funding gap, use it.
The history of a carbon tax isn’t popular across Washington State. In 2016, Initiative 732 — proposing a carbon tax to raise $2 billion per year in new taxes — was on the November ballot. More than 59 percent of state voters opposed it. And, in Cowlitz County, more than 69 percent of the voters voted against I-732.
Some folks say the Legislature should enact carbon tax legislation during the current session before voters face another poorly written carbon tax initiative on the November ballot. The theory is that whatever carbon tax legislators pass will be far better, or less harmful, than an initiative written by a special interest group.
History lends some credence to this concern, but the fear of a poorly written initiative is not a good reason to pass legislation that will increase the cost of electricity, natural gas and gasoline, and possibly force some Cowlitz County residents to lose their jobs.
Other people point to Initiative 937, which passed with 52 percent of the vote in 2006. The initiative sounded good — to force utilities to source more renewable energy power. But, hydro power was not classified as a renewable source in the initiative, which forced utilities to make costly investments that increased power rates.
While folks living in Seattle seem to be pro-tax, the rest of the state is not. The carbon tax initiative in 2016 failed by a wide margin and likely will fail again if it is put on the November ballot.
Another reason we don’t support a carbon tax is it won’t necessarily help the environment. Legislation supporters and Gov. Inslee make the issue sound like life and death — but it is not.
Automobiles represent almost half of all carbon emissions and a new carbon tax won’t solve King County’s traffic problems. Maybe the Legislature needs to pass a carbon tax for all registered vehicles in King County.
From a broader perspective, 10 states contribute half of all U.S. carbon emissions and Washington ranks near the bottom of the list. According to the World Resource Institute, Texas, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Florida are responsible for half of all carbon emissions in the country.
From a local perspective, Cowlitz County will suffer from carbon tax legislation. Our area has been identified for having significant greenhouse gas sources. And that means local companies will pay much higher taxes.
According to the Department of Ecology, the Headquarters Landfill, the Cowlitz County landfill, Emerald Kalama Chemical, KapStone Paper & Packaging, Nippon Dynawave, Northwest Hardwoods, Owens Brockway Glass Container, The Mint Farm and Solvay Chemicals are all sources of greenhouse gas emissions in our community.
If you work for one of these companies, your employer will pay more in taxes if a carbon tax is enacted and this could affect your job.
As noted above, statewide and local voters don’t want a carbon tax. The tax won’t necessarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions and would raise the costs of electricity, natural gas and gasoline, negatively affecting the citizens of our state. And, local companies would be strapped with higher taxes and local jobs could be in jeopardy.
We need common sense solutions and a carbon tax makes no sense.