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CarbonWA Kicks Off Their Carbon Tax Shift Campaign

CarbonWA supporters congregate at the Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar in Seattle.

CarbonWA supporters congregate at the Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar in Seattle.

The next two years promise to be one of the most dramatic periods in the political history of Washington State. In addition to extraordinary state budget

challenges, and an unusual mix of other issues that must be addressed, the state will see a showdown on climate change and carbon emissions. To date the Governor’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce has dominated the news, with its next meeting scheduled for September 9. But on Wednesday night just over fifty people squeezed into the Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar in Seattle for the CarbonWA Campaign Kickoff Social.

“CarbonWA is a non-partisan grassroots group that believes a carbon tax shift is the best way for Washington State to lower taxes, increase energy security, and reduce carbon emissions — the most effective means of fighting climate change. response to climate change.” They are seeking to get a revenue-neutral carbon tax — modeled on British Columbia’s tax shift — on the 2016 Washington State ballot.

What makes this group so interesting is its Advisory Board which includes prominent environmentalist like Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, but also Todd Meyers who is Director of the conservative Washington Policy Center’s Center for Environmental Policy.

At the Kickoff Social on Wednesday the supporters heard from speakers including environmental economist, Yoram Bauman, who is also known as the Stand Up Economist. In addition to providing great humor he reiterated one of CarbonWA’s key messages: We should lower taxes on things we want more off (jobs and income) and raise taxes on things we want less of (carbon pollution).

We talked with a member of the CarbonWA steering committee, Alex Lenferma, and asked where they were on what is expected to be the Governor’s well funded push to implement a Cap and Trade proposal — modeled after California’s approach — instead of a carbon tax. He made it clear they will not be opposing any such proposal by the Governor but are “not convinced it will pass.”

CarbonWA’s proposed revenue-neutral tax shift would:

  • Reduce the state sales tax by one full percentage point.
  • Fund the Working Families Rebate to provide up to $1000 a year for 400,000 low-income working households.
  • Eliminate the B&O business tax for manufacturers and triple the small business B&O tax credit.
  • Institute a carbon tax of $15 per metric ton CO2 on fossil fuels consumed in the state of Washington in year one and in the second year increase that to $25.

Supporters believe that by returning the carbon tax to impacted businesses and households, they will create an incentive to reduce buying carbon fuels while encouraging job growth, and holding families and businesses harmless.

A number of economists on the left and right believe that if one is going to take a comprehensive approach to reducing carbon emissions, then a carbon tax is the optimum solution. Nonetheless, the key question here is whether a small coalition like CarbonWA can compete with the other war machines forming around the climate change debate.

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