(The author has contributed to the I-732 campaign but has no other affiliation with it.)
Initiative 732 would establish a tax on fossil fuels consumed in Washington State, ramping up over 2 years to the equivalent of $25/ton of carbon emissions, and then increasing by 3.5%/year (plus inflation). The revenue would be used to reduce the state sales tax , eliminate the B&O tax for manufacturing, and provide sales-tax rebates to low-income working families.
The I-732 campaign is currently collecting signatures to place the initiative on the November ballot. Further details are available at http://carbonwa.org
Why a revenue-neutral carbon tax?
Most transit advocates are also carbon-reduction advocates, and likely favor some sort of carbon pricing. But why-revenue neutral? Why not designate the proceeds for transit funding and perhaps other climate-friendly government spending?
First and foremost, it is critical to gain consensus in favor of carbon reduction. Without very strong and broad popular support, carbon pricing legislation will fail in the face of spending by fossil-fuel industries and their focus on anti-tax messaging that (whatever your opinion of it) is popular with a large segment of voters. Many moderate and even some conservative voters recognize the dangers of climate change and would favor some climate action. But they are not likely to be urbanists, passionate about transit, nor friendly to increased taxes. Still, we are all agreed on the importance of carbon reduction, and a proposal that focuses on that single objective can gain the necessary consensus across progressive, many moderate, and some conservative voters.
What is the goal?
To insist on bundling carbon pricing with other progressive causes endangers that consensus. We have a choice: insist on the entirety of our individual agendas, or find common ground with enough voters to succeed on this critical issue. A revenue-neutral carbon tax provides that common ground.
And once we DO succeed, then we can continue the important debates about further aspects of land use, transportation, and equity.