Taxing carbon: Making an improbable comeback in state budget discussions?

Plenty of recent press coverage suggests that some form of carbon taxation may find its way into an eventual state budget resolution. While it likely still faces heavy sledding in the Senate, House Democrats say they may have the votes

Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Des Moines and the point man on the carbon legislation, said providing 50 Democratic votes for the new plan will depend on how it eventually fits in with the final budget package that the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-dominated Senate will eventually reach. Right now, the two sides are far apart in the talks on the main state budget.

This isn’t the proposal originally proposed by the governor. But the Washington Research Council’s report on carbon taxation still provides good context for understanding the general issues.

The House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the new bill, SHB 1314, Thursday at 1:00 p.m. The Seattle Times reports on parallel activity in the Senate.

We’re trying to turn this into an economic winner in rural areas, as well as something that is going to deal with our climate-change problem,” said state Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, chief sponsor of the revised proposal in the Senate.

The Times summarizes key changes in the proposal.

The basic framework of the cap-and-trade system — essentially a new tax on carbon emissions — would remain the same under the revised proposal.

The state would set a cap on carbon emissions and require the biggest emitters, such as refineries and fuel distributors, to buy tradable pollution permits. Over time, the emissions cap would be reduced, forcing industries to cut their emissions or buy increasingly expensive permits.

The Democrats’ new proposal would alter how the estimated $1.2 billion raised annually from carbon fees is divvied up, according to summaries of the bill revisions provided Monday.


There’s plenty more in the article…and House Democrats provide this 3-page summary…but those who were skeptical of the original proposal remain skeptics.

“This is still a tax on energy,” said state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, adding that the effort seems to be more about Democrats’ desire to raise taxes than climate policy…

And Brandon Housekeeper, a lobbyist on environmental issues for the Association of Washington Business, said the various subsidies and rebates in the legislation only prove the cap-and-trade plan will add costs for businesses.

See also Jerry Cornfield’s account in the Everett Herald. 

It’s unclear whether there’s much momentum behind the alternative proposal. That it’s surfacing at this time suggests how divided the Legislature remains on Day 14 of the 30-day special session.