Five Things You Should Know About the Proposed Carbon Tax Initiative

Mar 5, 2018

Last Friday, the day after legislators declared their carbon tax proposal “dead,” left-wing environmental activists filed their carbon tax initiative which will begin collecting signatures to be placed on the ballot this November.

Here are five things you should know about the proposed initiative.

1) It will increase gas taxes by 15 cents a gallon and add another 2 cents a gallon every year. The initiative calls for a starting price of CO2 of $15 per metric ton (MT). It would increase by $2 per MT plus inflation annually. Assuming a three percent inflation rate, it would increase to 43 cents per gallon of gasoline by  2030.

2) Households will pay an estimated $260 more a year in 2020, rising to $750 a year in 2030. Since the initial cost is higher than what was proposed in the legislature, the cost is higher as well.

3) Funding goes to special interests, with CO2 emissions taking a back seat. Although the proposal claims to be about reducing CO2 emissions, the money is spent on a wide range of left-wing causes. For example:

- The initiative requires a report on the effectiveness of expenditures, but there are no metrics for what “effectiveness” means.

- Money can be spent on things that have nothing to do with cutting CO2 emissions, including funding highway tolling, online job training, money to help with job transitions for fossil-fuel workers, and public relations campaigns regarding government assistance.

- The board that oversees the money can approve any expenditure if it determines the spending is “critically important to achieve the purposes” of the initiative.

- All projects give preference to unions. The projects should support “high quality labor standards, prevailing wage rates determined by local collective bargaining, apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship utilization and preferred entry standards…”

There are many other requirements and preferences that actually make it more difficult to reduce CO2 emissions.

4) They can’t keep their own political language straight. The initiative calls for creating an “Environmental and Economic Justice Panel.” Other times, however, it refers to that panel as the “Economic and Environmental Justice Panel.” Whatever.

5) It provides funding for several government agencies and new panels. The initiative requires plans from several agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Recreation and Conservation Office, the Utilities and Transportation Commission, and the Department of Ecology, among others. Additionally, it creates four new boards and panels: the Public Oversight Board, the Clean Air and Energy Panel, the Clean Water and Health Forests Panel, and the Environmental and Economic Justice Panel (or vice versa). There is administrative funding provided for all these efforts.

I will provide a longer analysis in the future, but this captures the tone of the initiative.