Lawmakers moving flurry of bills as first cutoff deadline looms. Governor Inslee again calls for passage of carbon tax.
High profile bills, such as the two-year capital budget, the Hirst court decision, and gun control, have dominated the news coming out of Olympia early this session, but lawmakers have also been busy advancing a large number of bills through the committee process ahead of the first cutoff deadline this Friday, the last day for bills to be scheduled for a floor vote in their originating chamber.
Budget and transportation related bills have until next Tuesday, February 6th, to be reported out of committee in their originating house.
Approaching the halfway point of this year’s 60-day regular session, more than 1,300 new bills have been introduced. These are added to carryover legislation from last year’s record-long 193-day session, for a total of some 3,600 measures that are technically under consideration in the current session.
So far this year, about 100 measures have been passed by at least one chamber, and four bills have passed the House and Senate and been signed into law, including the Hirst decision water access bill and a capital budget bill. Lawmakers also passed SB 5375, renaming the cancer research endowment authority in honor of Senator Andy Hill, who passed away from the disease in October 2016.
There are nine measures before the legislature that would create some form of carbon tax, and Governor Inslee on Tuesday once again asked lawmakers to pass this new tax this year. His proposal would impose a $20-per-ton tax on carbon emissions, essentially a tax on energy use, starting in 2019. It would raise some $3 billion over the first four years.
Legislative leaders expressed doubts that a carbon tax bill could pass this session, which is scheduled to adjourn on March 8th. According to NW News Network, Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson (D-Maury Island) said she’s not sure if passage of a carbon tax is doable but added that there is an “all out effort” underway. “This has gained a lot of steam since we came into session and I’m very proud of the efforts there and we’re going to see if we can get it across the finish line,” Nelson said.
Democrats narrowly control both houses of the legislature this year, but passage of the tax would require a bi-partisan vote. Republicans remain firmly opposed to increasing the state’s tax burden, especially since Congress just passed a tax cut that will benefit Washington residents.
Instead, they say they want to incentivize carbon reduction through tax breaks for companies that invest in renewable energy.
House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish said a carbon tax would drive up the cost of gas, electricity and heating fuel. “If you really have a carbon problem, we don’t believe that the tax aspect of it is really going to solve any of that problem except that it’s going to create a massive burden to the citizens of the state,” he said.
For the latest updates on carbon tax legislation, enter “carbon tax” in the “Search Bills” feature on our home page, and visit washingtonvotes.org regularly to keep up with all the action in Olympia. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter #waleg.