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Let’s get four things straight from the get-go:

  1. I’m giving my personal views
  2. I’m a transit self-advocate
  3. I’m not against taxes
  4. I’m not sure what to believe about climate change – especially after Climategate – but I do believe we humans need to question our impact on Mother Earth.

That said, I’ve got a real problem with a risky carbon tax proposal that will increase taxes with no plan for voter input, debate and voter consent.  Voters time and again have made clear voters want the final say on taxes – and will vote for new taxes to pay for new transit services (e.g. Veto of I-912, ST2 & Skagit Transit’s 2008 sales tax hike).

Furthermore, I disagree with any “carbon” tax plan that is a tax increase – not a tax shift.  If we’re going to genuinely change tax policy to make it less regressive, then there has to be tax relief on other taxes to shift taxation onto emissions.  In fact our neighbours in British Columbia implemented a successful carbon tax policy under the free enterprise BCLiberals doing just this – and according to The Globe and Mail, a Canadian business newspaper, was quite successful.  Mother Jones – no free-market gaga rag – also agrees.  Sightline Institute – a local think tank – even wrote, “BC’s carbon pricing system is the best in North America and probably the world.”  But no, Governor Jay Inslee wants to cook up a proposal that’s going nowhere with a Republican-controlled State Senate lock-step opposed.

Therefore, I agree with Representative Ed Orcutt at 7:09 of the Freedom Foundation Freedom Daily Podcast Governor Jay Inslee made a transportation package “a lot more difficult” with his cap & trade efforts.  A 12 cent gas tax increase – especially with falling gas prices – would be a straightforward way to reduce road-miles and get a transportation package out the legislative doors to voters.  Which is the end goal – we transit advocates want ST3, we transit advocates want Community Transit to have its ballot opportunity, and we transit advocates believe a great way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to give incentives to transit use.

Listening to Representative Orcutt at around 14 minutes, I also agree a transportation package is going to require King County voters to push over the edge to victory.  The “Big Bertha” fiasco has broken the trust of the voters and needs to end as much as… in my view, Sounder North.  Shut them both down and let voters know the era of megaprojects given free reign to spend is over.

Perhaps I have a solution here to restore confidence – and granted this is from a Skagitonian perch looking down at majestic Seattle, counting down the days until America’s Blue Angels fly over the greatest city of the greatest Nation on Planet Earth [in other words STB can tell me I suck and my ideas such even more ;-)]:

  • Ax Big Bertha.  Just do it and replace it with either a new viaduct or surface street option.
  • Kill Sounder North and replace the unsafe, expensive service with the current services used to replace Sounder North when slides hit.
  • Make damn sure ST3 is on the November 2016 ballot and Community Transit gets its local option.  No surrender for some abstract principle – get ST3 & Community Transit on the ballot.
  • Give folks incentives to use transit – not just penalties but also tax relief for transit users
  • Give transit agencies fiscal recompense for giving out transit monthly commuter passes at reduced price as part of the state transportation package
  • Make the State Patrol have as a point of emphasis HOV lane enforcement with higher fines for violation so commuter buses can keep their schedules
  • Help Sound Transit complete light rail faster with streamlined permitting & exemption from state sales tax – light rail at Lynnwood sooner will help Community Transit and will take not just buses but many more cars off of congested roads.
  • WSDOT has a purchase list for buses – use its persuasive power to the max for congestion relief.  Therefore require all future commuter bus purchases be Double Tall buses which can haul 70+ passengers in less space unless there’s a waiver from WSDOT.

There’s your CO2 reduction plan.  Not grandiose, not some carbon tax increase but through small actions that can make big change happen when taken together. Some of these actions do not require the state legislature.  Picking a fight with Republicans for the sake of is not very smart and is very partisan – dooming a state transportation package to failure.

By the way, uh, State Legislative Republicans I’m watching the clock.  You’ve got until 12 January before the legislature sits.  Some of us transit advocates are going to start paging members of the legislative press gallery to pin you down on transit issues.  Some of the ideas in my plan… are yours ;-).

Cheers and enjoy 2015.

25 Replies to “North by Northwest View 08 – I’m Joe, A Transit Advocate and I OPPOSE Jay Inslee’s carbon tax plan”

  1. Not only is “Climategate” not news, the fact that it’s a totally fabricated scandal is not news either.

    Killing Sounder North does nothing to address pollution of any kind.

    There’s no money to give transit users incentives — any additional funding for transit would be better spent on operations in places they’re currently deficient.

    HOV lane operators on state roads rarely slow down buses very much.

    ST doesn’t build stuff slowly because the permits take a long time to get, it builds stuff slowly because it designs expensive stuff and doesn’t have that much money.

    Many transit agencies don’t have separate commuter fleets. Some don’t need double-decker capacity. All of ’em are in a better position to understand their own needs than WSDOT. And a procurement requirement involving more paperwork doesn’t address pollution of any kind.

    Carbon pricing schemes, even flawed ones, are fiscally responsible and rely on market principles to work. That’s why people that believe in fiscal responsibility and market solutions hate them so much: they know they’re capable of actually working. The biggest flaw in carbon pricing schemes yet tried, from the perspective of preserving life on the only planet we have to live on, is that the price isn’t high enough.

    1. A fair bit of the ‘expensive stuff’ is necessary for implementing rail around here. Seattle isn’t flat, doesn’t have a lot of unused rail right of way in the right places, nor do we have many large surface bolevards suited for rail. This means we can’t build surface rail on the cheap like many other cities can.

      I really don’t see an alternative for say Downtown to Northgate other than tunneling. Sure the stations could have been more utilitarian than they are but the cost differences are minor once the decision to go underground is made.

      Also remember that Sound Move construction and U Link in particular was delayed for a few years by the issues with the initial alignment and going south from downtown first rather than North.

      As frustrating as the construction timelines are I don’t see a better way that still leaves the region with a decent system.

      FWIW Sound Move is on track to complete within its 20 time frame and ST2 is still on track to complete within its 15 year time frame.

      As to North Sounder, I agree it is a complete waste of money. However I think the danger to the public from slides is overstated. There may be an opportunity to save some money by using DMUs to provide the service but I doubt it will be possible to terminate service entirely until at least Lynnwood Link opens.

      1. Thanks Chris, but I would still like to see efforts to help Sound Transit out wherever possible get it done faster. The danger from slides is not overstated – there was just last week a slide with logs and 5 feet deep that interrupted Sounder North.

    2. Al, most of your stuff is blah-blah but the WSDOT does issue a bus purchase list. I know this having actually sat in Island Transit Board meetings.

      1. Joe, Al’s stuff is not “blah blah.” He’s responding to your assertions in your piece. Your proposals will not save much money and will have to be paid for with new taxes. Since most Republicans have taken no-new-tax pledges. Just imagine what it will be like trying to convince them that climate change is real and there is no Santa Claus who makes billions appear through “reforms.” The simple truth is that revenues have not kept up with demand for services, and we are not a high-tax state.

      2. James, I’m all for a new transportation package. So are most legislative Republicans. Jay Inslee’s cap and tax carbon tax scheme is DOA, a roadblock to ST3 & the Community Transit local option we need.

        My focus is on getting in, getting what we transit advocates need out of a bicameral state legislature where just about any tax increase is going to be sent off to voters – that’s called reality, and winning the public votes. It’s a realist view, I just hope I don’t come off as too condescending or pessimistic.

      3. Joe,

        Have you thought that maybe Governor Inslee has proposed the Carbon Tax exactly to stop the legislature from going all rubber-tired crazy? To rile things up? Because that’s what they want to do.

        There is exactly a 0.00% genuine interest is transit funding in the “Majority Coalition”. There’s a bullet point about transit on the PowerPoint’s but it’s just a Shiny Thing to distract people from the sprawl-today-sprawl-forever plans that will enrich their BIA single-family home builder funders. When the sausage gets ground transit will hit the floor of the kitchen.

      4. No buddy, I know Gov’r Inslee wanted to run to the far left.

        I intend to make damn sure my Republican friends remember their friend needs mass transit. Also that I want a Republican party that can win in the suburbs & exurbs – not a rural-only party that translate into one-party control in this state.

        One last parting shot: I find it odd for a political party that proclaims to be “pro life” and “anti welfare” have such a problem supporting the life affirming, anti welfare, get-a-yob support that mass transit is. America is the land of the car and if you can’t drive, you shouldn’t end up being a second class citizen.

      5. A Republican Party with a hope of growing support is one that stops lying to itself about climate change. Lincoln’s famous saying about whom you can fool and when comes to mind… and the number of people that can be fooled on this issue is dropping.

      6. What Al said in his last comment. The complete denial of reality by the Republican Party leaders is their main political problem.

        It’s quite impressive how many people will vote for a candidate who runs on a platform of outright lies and fantasy — Sam Brownback got elected in Kansas, repeatedly, despite outright lies regarding the results of his cut-taxes, cut-services plan (which blew a giant hole in the budget and is causing people to emigrate from Kansas!) — but *eventually* somethng has to give.

        A few Republican elected officials who accepted the consensus of all reputable scientists regarding climate change would be a help.

      7. Okay Nathanael, good points. I do think my party has a problem in that Republicans have aspirations but no desires to make sacrifices to get to our goals of disabled people in employment, quality education, low crime and the like. It’s like, “Me sacrifice? No way.” We’ve seen that on so many issues… after all, JFK was a Democrat and who said, “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Since 9/11 and other national trials since, Republicans aren’t into “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship” in the grassroots.

        However, since I couldn’t write about the importance of I-594 to transit users… I’m calling CEASE FIRE on all future comments on and about “climate change”.

        Nothing you or Al said, just if I the maverick couldn’t defend I-594 then folks can’t be defending “climate change” or “climate change science”. I’ve meditated on this for a few days and didn’t want to drop The Hammer until it was necessary – I passionately hate rude people.

        We at STB need to focus on transit and making transit better. You will never convince me the seas will rise 20 feet, but you will convince me transit will reduce humanity’s impact on the planet.

        So. let us come together and defend transit and make clear we will bear any burden, we shall not give up or give in, we will respect individual liberty while demanding help to give that same liberty to those who cannot drive, and we will come together to make this world better than the one we found. Why? Because we’re Americans and even luckier still Washingtonians, we’re geeks and many of us wanted to serve like I after 9/11 wanted to serve but were denied that opportunity.

  2. Cap-and-trade is not a tax. It’s a system of auctioned permits. A simple carbon tax would be better: it’s more straightforward, less prone to manipulation by politically powerful compnanies at the expense of other companies, and is clearly a “sin tax” taxing an undesirable thing and funding a desirable thing. (Or refunding the tax to residents, making it revenue-neutral but still disincentivizing carbon use.) So I’m almost inclined to oppose the carbon tax — except it’s a step in the right direction which would hopefully be improved later. Also, what would replace the revenue? Wouldn’t rejecting the tax put a hole in the transportation budget? Would the remaining money be enough to do all that Joe wants?

      1. Indeed, you should. This is going to jack up prices and be further regressive.

        Where’s the tax relief for working families & the unemployed? For transit users and recyclers already doing the right things?

        Why put ST3 & the local option for Community Transit at risk?

      2. “Regressive taxes” is the Washington Policy Center’s trolling tactic to oppose all new transit funding, ever. An income tax would be progressive. A capital gains tax for transit would be progressive. I have not heard clamoring from the Senate majority for reducing the state sales tax and shifting to one of these alternatives.

      3. James, anybody who opposes ST3 & Community Transit’s local option is going to have me to deal with. Count on it.

        We will never see an income tax in this state and conservatives will never fall over themselves in support of new taxes. This state is taking in 3 Billion more without a tax increase, we don’t need new taxes to pay for anything except a transportation package that can pass the legislature and the voters.

        That said, the fact Jay Inslee will never take up the cause of tax relief and rebates to low income families is his loss.

      4. An income tax is the only long-term option you have for financing the government in the state. Well, actually, you could go with a wealth tax, but that’s even harder to pull off and more problematic.

        I could go into a long explanation about why the income tax is the only option which is viable in the long term, but basically, look at history. The casino nature of capitalism causes wealth to accumulate in the hands of a few people. In the *long term*, you have to tax *those few people*, because that’s where the money is. This means an income tax or a wealth tax, because they can evade everything else.

        Back in the Middle Ages, property tax worked because land was the only thing which you could invest weath in (apart from slaves which were usually also taxed), so it was basically a wealth tax. But that hasn’t been true since the Industrial Revolution, there’s lots of ways to invest money now.

        Some states have such a concentrated economy that they can use a different tax for the same effect — Nevada can basically fund itself with a casino tax, and Wyoming with a minerals extraction tax, because all the rich people generate their money in one specific way in those states. But if you have a diversified economy, you’re back to the options of income tax or wealth tax.

        You can get away without an income tax while you’re a new frontier state, or while the federal government (which has an income tax) is injecting money into your economy, so you can get away with this for a hundred years — but in the long run, for a steady-state, stable government, you’re going to need an income tax or a wealth tax.

        It’s only a question of when you pass the income tax. Or, of couse, you could not do so and watch the state go to hell in a handbasket, that’s always an option.

      5. Okay Nathanael, that’s well and off focus………………. but good arguments for another place.

    1. The gas tax and local options – all of whom should face voters – would cover the costs. My understanding is cap and tax is going nowhere.

      In Case Anybody Missed It My agenda is to get ST3 & Community Transit out of the legislature. Eliminate unnecessary roadblocks to those tax options. End.

  3. So if I understand what your saying, Jay Inslee should give up on his transportation plan and on his climate change plan so ST3 has better odds at the ballot. I actually agree, but think he already has. Climate change is a lost cause and most of the money from this plan goes to freeways. His plan sucks no matter what party you’re from. This is exactly why I like it. No one likes it so it will take a long time to fail to pass. Meanwhile, we can make our local tax increase happen allowing us to make transit improvements we need.

    1. Ben P, exactly – “climate change is a lost cause”, we’re almost back to $2 or less per gallon of gas this winter, and frankly this isn’t about Jay Inslee, Curtis King, Mary Lane Strow or any other public figure working in the state legislature.

      Our focus at STB should be on ST3, local transit tax options & local transit grants. Period.

    2. The legislative session hasn’t even started yet. Things will get added and stripped out individually. What somebody says beforehand is not necessarily how they’ll vote, because the bill will change, their peers will have different tipping points, etc. If cap-and-trade has insufficient support it’ll be stripped out. Many things take several years before they succeed, and this is its first year. If the whole transportation bill fails, we should demand that ST3 get a separate vote. Because the state’s not paying for it, so it has little to do with the main things it’s debating, so the state shouldn’t hold it up.

      1. Mike,

        The reason the legislature puts SoundTransit authorizations in the “Transportation [e.g. “Highways”] Bill” is that it bludgeons the voters of Puget Sound into voting for the massive subsidization of rural highways throughout the state they would not vote for otherwise.

        So don’t expect even a sympathetic, “Gee, I wish we could have gotten to that…” crocodile tears if you ask them.

      2. Anandakos, has it occurred to you that people like you are making my job and the job of other transit advocates harder when you pit rural versus urban? I don’t like it when Road Bullies or Republicans do it, so I can’t let you off.

        Mike, I agree, ST3 deserves a vote one way or another. We need ST3, period. If we wait for the perfect opportunity with no highway subsidies – thanks Anandakos – it’ll never happen.

        We take what we can get and then we make ST3 win at the voting booth.

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