Expect one or more carbon tax proposals to resurface in 2017

The defeat of the I-732 carbon tax doesn’t mean the idea disappears from our state’s climate change discussions. 

“Our campaign all along said, ‘We’re going to take a swing at the ball,’ and we did that. But the game is not over,” said Yoram Bauman, an economist who founded Carbon Washington, the grassroots group behind Initiative 732. “Our group and other folks will look for other opportunities to try to take action.”

Last February we wrote about the competing ideas for an initiative, even speculating that we might have seen two carbon measures on the November 8 ballot. While that didn’t happen, the controversy about how best to pursue a strategy for carbon reduction will likely re-emerge. Consensus on these policies continues to be elusive.

The AP story reports,

Left-leaning groups that opposed the measure said they support climate action, but I-732 was a “false solution” that would hurt the poor. They said it wrongly focused on tax cuts rather than investing money in clean energy projects and communities hardest hit by climate change.

“The burden would be on those who can least afford it,” said Rebecca Saldana, executive director for Puget Sound Sage, part of a coalition that has been working on a parallel effort in the state. “Washington will continue to lead. We led by having something on the ballot, and now we’ll lead by getting something that works.”

Saldana’s group and others in the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy are planning to bring a similar tax on carbon pollution to the Washington Legislature next year — though their version would redirect money to clean energy projects and low-income and minority communities.

Hal Bernton reports in the Seattle Times on the approach preferred by the alliance.

Though Washington voters just rejected a carbon-tax ballot measure, a new campaign to put a price on fossil-fuel emissions already is gearing up for the 2017 legislative session in Olympia. 

This will be an alternative proposal pitched by an alliance of environmental, social justice and labor groups that would place a modest tax on carbon emissions from oil, coal and natural gas.


Unlike the ballot measure turned down by voters, much of this tax money would be invested in clean-energy projects, according to a five-page draft of the plan released in the past week. 

“We will push it as hard and as far as we can,” said Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “And if the Legislature doesn’t move on it, we will move it back out to the public for a vote.

Business groups are willing to take a look, Bernton writes.

The Association of Washington Business, a group that spearheaded the campaign to defeat the carbon-tax ballot measure, is willing to give the new proposal a look.

“It is a starting point that they are offering, and we fully anticipate being at the table working with them,” said Brandon Houskeeper, the association director of government affairs measure.

He concludes his story by pointing out the politics, even in this green state militate against easy passage.

In the 2017 legislative session, carbon-tax proponents are expected to face opposition in a state Senate controlled by Republicans. They will also faced broader challenges in a Legislature that already will be grappling with the need to raise other revenue — as ordered by the state Supreme Court — to increase funding for education.

Be that as it may, it’s interesting to note that global carbon emissions have been flat for the last three years.