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Republican leadership unimpressed with scaled back version of Inslee’s carbon tax

Last week, a slightly scaled back version of Governor Inslee’s carbon tax bill passed out of the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology committee. While the new substitute bill reduces the initial carbon tax and adds provisions to help low income Washingtonians, the tax still hasn’t garnered support from Republican House and Senate leaders.

The amended version of the bill calls for a tax rate of $10 per metric ton of carbon. This rate would then increase annually by $2 per ton until maxing out at $30 per ton. The previous version of the bill started at $20 per ton and increased by 3.5 percent plus inflation annually, without a stopping point.

During a press conference, Senator Doug Ericksen pointed to several aspects of the bill he and his colleagues find troubling. For one, the annual growth of the tax means that in 10 years, a $30 carbon tax will translate to a 30 cent gas tax for consumers. He says that this gas tax, combined with an increase in the cost of utilities such as home heating, will place an enormous burden on consumers.

“If you’re a person who drives a car and likes to heat your home, you’re the person who pays the tax,” said Ericksen.

Another change to the amended version of this bill is the creation of the “rural economic development account” to be used for assisting rural communities that are disproportionately impacted by this tax. Even with this change, Representative Joel Kretz says low income and rural area families will suffer.

“Its going to hammer rural parts of the state that are already low income and high unemployment and its going to hit families,” said Representative Joel Kretz.

According to Ericksen, the bill also includes over 56 corporate tax exemptions and loopholes. During the press conference, Senator Mark Schoesler called these proposed exemptions hypocritical. Schoesler pointed out that Senator Reuven Carlyle both sponsors a bill calling for a reexamination of the nearly 600 tax exemptions on the books in Washington, and at the same time sponsors this carbon tax that would add 56 new ones.

“So on one hand, tax exemptions are evil and they need all of this scrutiny. On the other hand, if it’s in the name of climate change then let it go. The hypocrisy is pretty deep here,” said Schoesler.

Rather, Representative Joyce McDonald says they would have liked to see a different kind of bill to reduce carbon – one like Representative Richard DeBolt’s bill that also passed out of committee last week and incentivizes companies to move toward clean energy rather than creating a new tax.

“It’s an incentive bill. It doesn’t raise taxes; it provides incentives. And we know that a lot of the companies out there would like to do that. That to me is the carrot approach instead of the stick approach that really isn’t effecting [the companies] the way it’s effecting families in Washington State.”