Two weeks ago the Times had an interesting article ($) about a grassroots attempt to introduce a carbon tax in Washington State, Initiative 732:

They’re wrangling signatures for Initiative 732, which would put a new tax on carbon burned in gasoline, natural gas and other fossil fuels — while cutting other taxes by an equal amount. By raising the price of dirty energy, I-732 aims to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and encourage development of cleaner alternatives.

Jim Whitehead called for people to sign the petition on Page 2, citing its relevance to transit advocacy and he’s right. I’d like to expand on why. But first, our climate-activist state leadership is on board with this, right?

Nope. Instead, a powerful coalition that includes the state’s major green and labor groups is trying to squash the effort…

As a “revenue-neutral” plan, I-732 would not fill state government coffers with cash. While the carbon tax would raise an estimated $1.7 billion a year — and cost the average family an estimated $300 a year in higher gas and energy prices — it would give away an equivalent amount back to consumers, mostly through a full percentage point cut in the state sales tax.

That differs from cap-and-trade legislation offered up by Inslee and backed by the alliance in this year’s legislative session. That plan would have raised more than $1 billion a year from fees on carbon and directed the proceeds to the state education budget, transportation projects, affordable housing and other programs.

The establishment version seems like a classic example of chaining a popular cause (doing something about the climate) to an unpopular one (increasing the size of generic “government”).  I can’t help but think of I-1098, the 2010 Income Tax initiative, which chained a very popular progressive tax system to the most beloved of all local government spending, education.

Obviously, there is some segment of the population that prefers a regressive tax system, but not nearly enough to defeat an income tax. But by not making the measure revenue-neutral, I-1098 made the following additional enemies:

  • Victims of the regressive tax structure who want their taxes to be lower;*
  • People who don’t believe in supporting public education;
  • People who want education funded, but only by cuts in programs they personally don’t like (or by cutting “waste”);
  • People who would like to improve education outcomes but think that further spending by the existing school infrastructure will be wasted.

The point is not that any of these factions are correct, and indeed any argument over them is off-topic in the comments. The point is that I-1098 forfeited the opportunity to win a simple argument that poor people pay too many taxes, and instead took on a much more entrenched debate about the size of government. Everyone hurt by Washington’s regressive tax system suffered for this decision.

Climate change is too much of emergency to play games like this. Voters should approve I-732, and advocates for additional government spending (like us!) should win that debate on its own terms.

You can visit I-732’s website here.

* As poorer voters wouldn’t see lower taxes as a result of the measure, they were especially susceptible to the argument that a new income tax would eventually grow to ensnare them.

60 Replies to “Carbon Tax Initiative”

  1. i don’t see how any transit advocate can back I-732. It will do nothing for transit and passes up a priceless opportunity to generate billions in revenue for transit.

    The alternative plan is a cap-and-trade system modeled on what California has adopted. That system is popular with the public and survived a repeal effort at the ballot in 2010. It is generating billions for transit *each year*.

    Meanwhile the BC carbon tax hasn’t actually done much to lower emissions, in part because it is revenue neutral. So Vancouver doesn’t have the money it needs to build more transit, had to go to a local referendum to get the money, and lost.

    I don’t see why we should back a failed approach over a successful approach, whether from the perspective of reducing CO2 or funding transit. And for those who think I-732 will generate conservative votes because it’s revenue neutral, you don’t understand conservative voters. They hate taxes. And they hate this proposal. Polls make this clear.

    The establishment proposal is better. But their approach to politics is typically incompetent. They’re afraid to pull the trigger on their plan and take it to the ballot. So while they sit on their hands, the I-732 folks are busy organizing and occupying the space. That’s foolish. But it doesn’t mean we should back a bad proposal just because the better one is still waiting in the wings.

      1. Put it on the ballot. I-732 has no hope of passing and the polling makes that very clear. Cap-and-trade can win, especially if we can sell what it funds. I helped defend CA’s cap-and-trade system when opponents put it on the ballot in 2010. I am quite confident we can win.

      2. Why do you believe that a tax increase (as cap-and-trade would end up being) would be more popular among Republicans than this revenue-neutral plan. I’ve heard one of the I-732 organizers speak about how the measure was designed to be more likely to win voter approval precisely because it was revenue neutral, and his arguments make a lot of sense.

    1. Comparing BCs carbon tax to I-732 is a poor comparison. I-732s tax rates will be much higher than BCs. And there is clear evidence that BCs carbon tax works, it’s just too small to adequately address greenhouse emissions.

      With that being said, findings by the Governer’s climate workgroup suggest that even this higher tax wouldn’t be enough to meet state emissions targets, so it isn’t that crazy to call I-732 inadequate.

      1. A big part of the problem is that WA’s carbon emissions, like BC’s, come from transportation. That means a top priority in terms of emissions reductions needs to be building more transit so that people drive less. A revenue neutral carbon tax doesn’t help you get there and thus its impact on emissions is minor, as we’ve seen in BC.

    2. Not everything I like has to provide more money for transit. Once leaders actually get a cap and trade system on the table that I can fight for, I will fight for that. In the absence of other actions, this is better than the status quo.

  2. Honestly, although I strongly support additional transit funding, I agree with this approach. Really there are two questions here:
    A) how should tax revenue be collected from different sources?
    B) what is the total amount of taxes we want to collect at the state level?

    For A) I think taxing the externality of Carbon emissions is certainly good.

    For B) I’m not sure I want the total level of regressive state-wide taxes to increase.

    The state seems really bad at funding transportation in general (see the massive package recently passed that spends a huge amount on new highways that won’t make anyone’s trips faster because of the basic principle of induced demand).

    Instead, if we got anything,I would prefer more authority to tax be enabled for Local agencies – ideally just remove all of these stupid caps and let voters decide what they want to pay. That way we could choose to increase the only progressive tax we have (property taxes, despite significant imperfections there) and fund more transit.

    1. Here’s the thing: a carbon tax is regressive. Cap-and-trade isn’t. Despite the claims of the oil companies, the effect of cap-and-trade on actual consumers has been negligible. Here in WA, cap-and-trade could solve many of our transportation funding woes. A carbon tax doesn’t. We’d actually be worse off politically because we’d have adopted a carbon tax and voters would ask “well didn’t that do the job?” We wouldn’t be able to make a climate argument for new transit revenues.

      Because cap-and-trade is funded by polluters, it’s a very progressive option. And that’s why the big polluters hate it.

      1. I don’t have a good understanding of the relative merits of cap-and-trade vs a carbon tax, but I don’t think that’s the core of the debate. Would you support this initative if it was cap-and-trade but was still used to fund decreasing the (very regressive) sales tax rates?

        What I like about this is it decouples the two questions (what to tax vs the total amount to tax).

        That being said I don’t understand how cap-and-trade can have negligible impact on consumers. We can’t create money out of thin air – so if the energy companies who use carbon have to pay money to the state (via whatever mechanism you choose) then they will proportionally increase their prices. Maybe not immediately, and maybe not all at once, but if the cost of the underlying good goes up… I don’t blame them for this – it’s just basic economics.

      2. “Funded by polluters” ultimately means funded by everyone. In the initial stage it picks off particular large polluters and doesn’t even affect them much. But what happens when transportation and heating fuels are brought under the shrinking cap and demand remains high? Higher prices? Shortages? Neither outcome is “progressive” in the way you mean here.

        California’s system deserves a lot of credit; it’s a serious, plausible attempt to meet a carbon reduction goal. But it hasn’t really affected people yet, and when it does, it will face real challenges, and the impacts that will come shouldn’t be sugar-coated.

      3. Really, in the end, a successful, well-managed carbon tax and a successful, well-managed cap come to the same thing from different sides. A well-managed tax starts from the principle that every unit of emissions has the same impact and ought to be subject to the same incentive for reduction. In order to meet climate goals the tax rate must be managed with those goals in mind. Ideally it applies equally across all sectors and all political boundaries — the practical difficulty of actively managing a tax rate and harmonizing across political boundaries might be what kills it. Cap-and-trade starts with an emissions goal and the price of emission is left to float. Managing different caps within each political boundary involves a lot of horse trading and will certainly result in unfair outcomes for a lot of people, but it seems more plausible than managing a tax across those boundaries. The sustainable price of carbon is the same, and has basically similar affects on people, when the dust has settled; the continued government involvement/intrusion is different in nature if not scale.

        The argument is more about which is most likely to succeed, which sorts of continued government involvement are most acceptable, which sorts of incongruities are most acceptable. There’s a really good case for cap-and-trade there. Capping emissions directly means that negotiations have to be made and policy set in terms of carbon, not money.

      4. Yeah, what Al said. Either way, something that increases the cost of energy (whether by a tax or not) will be regressive. That can be balanced out by other measures, but it works the same way.

        The advantage of a tax is that it is lower overhead. It’s simpler to administer.

        Also keep in mind that we have plenty of taxes that extremely regressive, but they are quite popular. The tobacco tax is probably the biggest.

      5. I’ll try to respond to this all at once.

        Opponents of CA’s cap-and-trade system claimed that polluters would just pass on the costs. But by and large they have not. When fuels were included in cap-and-trade at the beginning of this year, the oil companies claimed it would cause prices at the pump to soar by 70 cents a gallon. In fact the impact was about 2-3 cents, and was quickly rendered background noise by the larger swings of the oil market.

        It turns out that it’s not actually so easy for polluters to pass along these costs. Which is one reason why they vehemently oppose cap-and-trade.

        The idea is that WA would join the existing California-Quebec linked cap-and-trade market.

        What’s regressive is raising a carbon tax on everyone but not using that revenue to provide affordable and sustainable transit options. That’s one reason why most people in the environmental justice movement and advocates for the poor back cap-and-trade and oppose I-732.

      6. 2015 was the first year the cap included transportation/heating fuels, but the level of the cap was barely below what emissions would have been without it. Opponents made unrealistic, alarmist predictions that were unsupported by the level of the cap — these were noise, and the fact that they were wrong proves nothing. In 2020 the cap will be significantly lower than emissions would have been without it. That’s a substantially different economic situation. The whole gasoline-producing economy is competitive enough that changes in global supply of (and demand for) the raw material, oil, affect prices at the pump in reliable, straightforward ways. To ignore how the situation will change going forward as the cap becomes a self-imposed limitation on supply is to make the same mistake the opponents made: to base your predictions on ideological hope rather than fact.

        I don’t oppose cap-and-trade; of course, using any revenues to provide services and infrastructure of broad benefit is a good thing. But I don’t think we should lie to ourselves or anyone else. You’re presenting it as a fait accompli; in reality it’s barely underway.

      7. “something that increases the cost of energy (whether by a tax or not) will be regressive.”

        Um, the poor use less energy than the rich, so they would pay less tax. It takes less energy to heat and cool a small apartment than a large house. You don’t have to mow the lawn if you don’t have one. The poor may still drive as much because transit is skeletal and many workplaces are in transit-inaccessible locations, but they aren’t driving SUVs.

      8. I have heard different arguments about whether a carbon tax or cap-and-trade is better. Al Diamond seems to give the best defense of cap-and-trade: is the problem is carbon, why don’t we set a direct limit on carbon, rather than an indirect tax which may never get around to being sufficient to limit carbon. What worries me about cap-and-trade, and why I tend to prefer a carbon tax, is that the public understands taxes: they’re transparent and it’s easy to see whether a company is paying it or got a political exception. The public doesn’t understand cap-and-trade or how to verify whether it’s being applied properly, so it could be easier for a few well-connected companies to game the system in an opaque way that the public doesn’t understand and doesn’t realize is happening, like the exotic financial instruments on Wall Street. Then some companies would get off free while everybody else either has to pay more or suffer more emissions, and the companies’ spin doctors could say “Nothing to see here” and the public wouldn’t be able to evaluate the difference between he-said and she-said.

      9. Mike – you’re right that rich people on average spend more on energy. However, a carbon tax would be regressive in the sense that the average person making $30,000/year spends a higher percentage of their income on energy than an average person making $300,000/year. So low income people would be affected more strongly by the carbon tax.

      10. Exactly what Larry said. In the most basic definition, “progressive” taxes have a rate that goes up as the quantity being taxed goes up (like the Federal income tax), “flat” taxes always have the same rate (like most income taxes), and “regressive” taxes have a rate that goes down as the quantity being taxed goes up (some fees work this way). But people often use the terms to describe how various kinds of taxes tend to affect people according to their income or wealth. A flat sales tax is almost always regressive in this way (sometimes it’s nice to say “income-regressive” to distinguish from “regressive” in terms of general politics or the tax’s rate relative to the taxed quantity); taxes on staple goods are even more regressive than general sales taxes.

        Regarding the challenge of setting the rate of a carbon tax: I’ve literally held this opinion for all of 14 hours, but my current thought is that this isn’t just a challenge, but maybe an impossible one. Even a government that earnestly tries to set a rate to ensure sustainable emissions will struggle to predict precisely the effects of the rate it sets in the immediate term, let alone how changes in technology, the economy, and people’s behavior will change people’s willingness to incur the tax. A token, obviously insufficient carbon tax is one thing; a serious attempt to achieve a carbon emissions goal is another — setting the carbon tax rate would be as difficult and as consequential as the Federal Reserve setting interest rates. But while the Fed doesn’t have obvious conflicts of interest, any organ of a country’s government setting its own carbon tax rate would have a significant one (similar to the conflicts of interest OPEC members have in reporting their oil reserves). Caps aren’t perfect or easy, but they lend themselves to long-term plans that can be developed at the (slow) speed of legislation and diplomacy.

        There also might be an analog to the uncertainty principle. If you manage taxes or caps/auctions to provide a consistent level of emissions, you’ll struggle to project revenue. If you manage them to provided consistent levels of revenue you’ll struggle to project emissions. Of course there’s no perfectly stable revenue source, and there are some tools out there to manage this sort of thing. King County Metro, to my understanding, did a good job building reserve funds and using them during the recession to prop up service levels while other agencies had to make more painful cuts.

      11. The difference is that most taxes aren’t related to the thing being taxed. A 10% sales tax doesn’t mean that buying things is bad or harmful, it’s just “where the money is”. But using fossil-fuel energy is harmful, both when the rich do it and when the poor do it, and is the reason for this tax. Doing something that doesn’t get passed on to consumers kind of defeats the purpose, because it’s consumers that are using the energy or having it be used. I don’t want to see this brought down for being “regressive”, the way the county voted against car-tabs-for-Metro because it would supposedly hurt poor drivers. (Never mind that the cost was equivalent to one or two tanks of gas, and how were they paying for the other dozen tanks and insurance and the car, or that more bus service would lessen the need for the car.)

      12. Here’s the thing: a carbon tax is regressive. Cap-and-trade isn’t.

        So this is just wrong. There is no difference in the regressiveness of one or the other. Taxes on carbon and permits for carbon are equally regressive. The regressiveness of the whole package depends on what the state does with the revenue. It’s progressive if the tax revenue or permit revenue replaces a more regressive tax or funds more progressive spending.

        Despite the claims of the oil companies, the effect of cap-and-trade on actual consumers has been negligible.

        That sounds like it’s not working. If there’s not a price change, there’s not a behavior change.

        But I think Robert’s just buying into a myth that polluters will swallow a permit cost, but pass on a tax cost. But the permits are just taxes. So the pass-throughs are the same. Technically, the tax incidence is determined by the relative elasticity of supply and demand. Whichever party can change behavior more easily pushes the cost on to the other side of the transaction. It has nothing to do with whether the tax/permit is nominally levied on the producer or consumer side.

        The important difference between taxes and permits is whether there is certainty on price or quantity. Every price/tonne has a corresponding amount of carbon reduction, but we don’t know for sure what that is. Our estimation procedures aren’t perfect, and it might vary with the economic cycle and costs of alternatives.

        Taxes have certain costs, but we can only estimate how much carbon reduction they’ll yield. Permits get us a known amount of carbon reduction, but at a price which might vary more than we’re comfortable with.

      13. This policy would actually be the biggest improvement to the regressivity of our tax system in decades. The tax itself is regressive, but it is refunded to low income families through the working families rebate. Despite all the worry about progressive activists wanting to spend the money, funding will go to a great progressive cause.

      14. For what it’s worth, it turns out that the elasticity of demand for fossil fuels is EXTREMELY HIGH.

        Back in the 1970s, the elasticity of demand for oil was extremely low. When OPEC shut off the oil spigot, it trashed the economy, because nobody had any substitute…

        …in the intervening 40 years, we’ve developed substitutes, and lots of them. There is absolutely nothing significant which requires oil. (Plastics and lubricants use an insignificant fraction of the oil supply.) Heating can be switched out for electric in a matter of weeks; industrial processes can switch to methane in days. Automobiles & buses might take a year or two to switch over if we went as fast as we could, and will probably switch over in about 10 years even with current low gas prices.

        The only thing which requires coal is steelmaking and even that has a (more expensive) alternative. Some things require methane (natural gas) but most of those are substitutable with renewable electricity, relatively cheaply.

        So the fossil fuel taxes can’t be passed on to consumers because *consumers can switch to renewable electricity*.

    2. The only way to fund transit is Property Tax.

      Despite hand wringing over “lost opportunities” even liberals here are unwilling to touch the Third Rail of Washington State politics. Too many longtimers are freeloading the system by paying little or no property tax while receiving all the benefits the productive people have created here.

      And if you don’t want to tax property, then we already have a Federal example of a tax on Passive Income (a kind of asset tax), the National Investment Income Tax, or NIIT. Even Hillary Clinton is talking about raising this kind of tax.

      No this is a case of two sides setting up a dialectic in which only a few restricted “solutions” are allowed into the debate. Yet many reasonable and real solutions are excluded by the opposing factions.

      1. I think the point of I-732 is that it is putting a methodolgy on the table that was previously not allowed into the debate.

        For those not liking I-732, please explain how it is mutually exclusive with your favored approach.

      2. The issue here with the mandated push to clean energy rather than the most active funding of new technology is that you may simply be putting people between a rock and a hard place. I mean if you are going to tax gasoline heavily are you going to also fund hydrogen stations and foster the use of fuel cell vehicles? If tax what you want, then you wouldn’t be too keen on the technologies that might cut into that nuisance tax. If reducing carbon is what you want, even sincerely, are you going to also put real alternatives on the table?

      3. Real alternatives to pollution already exist. We have solar panels and wind farms and hydroelectric dams and electric cars. These things already exist and are increasing in sales every year. Tacking a few cents on to the price of carbon will make green energy cheaper relative to fossil fuels, without any need for directly funding the competing technologies.

      4. Well yes, there is a solution that can work, hydrogen…and California is running with it. Why doesn’t Washington follow suit and build stations like the 100+ that they are in the process of building.

      5. We don’t need a silver bullet to reduce carbon emissions. It’s all about the little decisions people make.
        Our society uses vastly more fossil fuels than almost any other in the world. Slightly bigger cars, less sharing of rides, over large roads and parking lots, sprawly development, longer commutes. It’s not the only way of doing things, but it’s the way people here will continue to do things until they have a rational self-interested reason (not just altruism) to (gradually) change. Having traveled and lived abroad I can’t help but notice all the efficient ways people do things in other places that we just don’t do here because, why bother?

      6. The Turn Off The Lights When You Leave the Room and Put a Brick in Your Toilet approach has been around since the 1970s. But seriously, are you going to do without computers (one of the most significant draws on electricity in America)?

        Assuming you can change the problem space is as much a “silver bullet” as coming up with a reasonable technological solution to the needs of people as they now stand.

      7. My house is superinsulated (not quite “Passivhaus” but close). I don’t know why most people’s houses aren’t; it improves comfort and it’s relatively cheap. That would save enough energy to qualify as a “silver bullet”.

        I’m driving an electric car, which is an *improvement* in my standard of living over a gasoline car, while being much more energy-efficient.

        LED lights use 1/10 the energy of incandescents and last 10 times as long. They’re now just as nice for nearly all purposes (unless you’re growing plants or something).

        This stuff can be done right now. No sacrifices. Just improve your standard of living while wasting less.

    3. “B) what is the total amount of taxes we want to collect at the state level?”

      That’s the wrong approach and can lead to problems. The right approach is to start with, “What should the state do and how much does that cost?” Maybe that’s what you meant to determine the total amount, but the problem is that many people are pushing arbitrary numbers without regard to that. An increasing tactic by tax-haters, since they can’t roll back taxes very easily, is to just grandfather the current tax levels, and say the current level is the right level, without even looking at how well that level corresponds to the public needs or how arbitrarily it was set in the past. And then they decide that a certain number is the right amount for some project, without having any expertise in that area.

      1. Unfortunately democratically elected governments have shown time and again that when presented with a blank check, they’re unable to control costs or to separate wants from needs.

      2. Just as many times they’ve shown that even with problems staring them in the face, they won’t spend to fix them.

      3. Even more often, they’ve shown that voters will elect corrupt politicians who will *both* refuse to spend to fix real problems, *and* will collect taxes from the poor in order to give ’em to their cronies. Example: the Republican Party at the federal level in Congress, which hands out military pork like money grows on trees, while complaining whenever someone proposes spending something doing something useful in the United States.

        The only way to fix this is to stop voting for jackasses.

  3. I said this in the other thread and I’ll throw it out here again: I don’t think this has a chance of getting the establishment support needed to pass. So I think anyone that wants to see serious regulation of carbon emissions should vote for it on that more general principle.

    1. If it’s not going to pass, what’s the harm in voting for it. If it reaches 25% rather than 12%, doesn’t that tell Olympia that people are more interested in doing something about carbon?

    2. The initiative is also building a grassroots movement that the big green groups could take advantage of if they wanted, and perhaps they will.

      The initiative is halfway to having enough signatures, which is already a big statement since it is truly a grassroots movement.

  4. Things I note are:

    Sec 1. (1) Electricity generated from carbon dioxide producing sources is taxed.

    Sec 5.(2) A. Transit, Schoolbuses and other civic consumers of “fossil fuels” are reimbursed.

    Sec 4.(6) Refund for carbon sequestration (which would apply say when steam reforming is done but carbon by produce is captured or repurposed say for carbonization of soda).

    Things that confuse me are whether this is a nuisance tax designed to alleviate pollution (like the taxes on cigarettes) or simply a revenue source. For example, the carbon produced in the refining of gasoline is only one of its problems. You are still left with a poisonous, and malodorous product. (Try reading the label at the pump sometime.)

    1. It’s a nuisance tax designed to alleviate pollution and is very tightly structured that way. There’s a special exception given to buses — which there probably shouldn’t be, but it probably won’t matter since it’s already cheaper in Total Cost of Ownership for agencies to buy electric buses than to buy diesel or gasoline buses.

  5. I’m glad Martin has come out strongly in favor of I-732, and I’m amazed to see so many negative opinions in the comments. Of anywhere in the blogosphere I would expect STB readers to be enthusiastic about such a wonky, rational, econ 101-style proposal.
    I have been interested in politics for a decade and this is the first time I have volunteered extensively for a campaign. This is exactly the kind of incremental positive change that I want out of our democratic government. It addresses (fucking finally) a serious problem with a common-sense solution waiting around for a once-in-a-generation political sea-change to occur.
    We’re about ten years late in doing ANYTHING serious to address climate change. I-732 may not get our state emissions down to permanently sustainable levels, but it will get people thinking seriously (with their wallets) about the impacts of their decisions and habits, and get us past this ridiculous stage we’ve been in of green-washing, and liberal smugness while everyone goes on doing exactly the same things as they’ve always done.
    Sales are good. Carbon emissions are fucking up the planet. Lets tax people less when they buy beer or concert tickets and more when they buy gas.

    – Re: regressiveness- I-732 funds the Working Families tax rebate, which was created in 2008 but never funded. It’s like a EITC add-on, available for low-income folks. So the initiative does make the tax burden somewhat more progressive. Also climate change is going to be a fucking disaster for the poor.

    1. It addresses (fucking finally) a serious problem with a common-sense solution WITHOUT waiting around for a once-in-a-generation political sea-change to occur.
      proofreading is fun.

      1. “going to be a fucking disaster”
        Is the offspring of two disasters having intercourse a house-full of little disasters?

  6. Both solutions are good solutions from an environmental prospective. Given our political system the Revenue Neutral Carbon Tax is the best path forward to combat climate change and pollution (it’s sad how little we focus on pollution these days other than Carbon) as its easily understandable and implementable and does not have as many dislocation effects. As to raising taxes for Transit is a separate issue, that most here would agree with but both of these plans could just as easy have a component that does that.

    1. It’s objectively good too because it starts to put a price on public assets and using them in a way that harms everybody else. The tax is simultaneously mitigation for the externalities caused by it, and a disincentive to use it. The payment is akin to a dividend that you would get if you owned a private asset. That’s how the Alaska Permanent Fund is structured, and it provides a model that could gradually be applied to other problems of the private-gain/socialized-loss sort. It would also start to give people an income not based on work, the beginnings of a Basic Income, which would allow the poor to make the same kinds of capital gains as the rich, and which will be needed in the future as technology makes more jobs obsolete.

  7. My undestandung is that coal is/was exempt from Washington sales taxes, but natural gas is subject to them.

    Maybe eliminating the tax benefit for the most carbon intensive energy sources would be a good first step? That is, if this is actually the case.

  8. This is the only approach we have at this time and we should run with it. The Republicans will never put their big boy pants on and deal with this issue so it is time that the people just do it for them.

    And making it revenue neutral is the right approach at this time. To make it a tax increase would just give the R’s something to wail about and make all sorts of false and misleading statements about. It’s best to remove the “tax increase” issue as much as possible from the debate.

    And we can always raise taxes later.

    I support this initiative.

  9. Since petro is Washington’s biggest carbon contributor and electric cars don’t generate gas tax, and since Puget Sound is about 60% of the states population and the only place with the density to support transportation tools such as Light Rail,, whatever taxes the state can generate, sad and ironic to say, should be for upkeep of roads. This along with a strong support for alternative autos (electric car rebates, cellulosic ethanol integration and etc). Let Obama and the EPA take out the coal plant in Centralia. We need to distribute the tax equitably regardless of the source, C&T or CT.

    1. Maybe you missed the part about this being revenue neutral. A revenue neutral proposal should not be viewed as a money grab opportunity for roads. If you want more roads than raise the gas tax to pay for them.

  10. Rising the price of gas is good for transit. Doesn’t matter if the money is set on fire, raising the gas tax makes taking transit a better option and sprawl more costly.

    1. Tell that to the typical orchardist or dam worker who have no choice but to drive long distances daily. They should be subsidized if gas taxes keep upticking.

      1. Most orchadists and dam workers that I know are Republicans, so I am sure they would understand and appreciate the concept of “the user pays”

        But I don’t see why would be any more qualified to receive a subsidy than any other worker. Work is work.

      2. They shouldn’t get subsidies. Their driving is, of course, a business expense; their employer should pay the expense and deduct those costs from their taxes.

    2. Seems that it is a trade off, shorter distances and commute times vs higher housing cost. Where is the incentive for living more urban again?

      “while cutting other taxes by an equal amount”. if CT is revenue neutral than cut the taxes for ethanol or electric vehicles for rural residents if gas taxes are raised. The more rural the resident the more at a disadvantage. Higher gas cost with equivalent cuts in such things as public transit doesn’t help (in case of C&T added revenue). For rural people there is no access to PT and the average trip is longer than the average trip in a urban setting and thus more expensive. Personally, I have gone for a year without using my car in the city, this could never happen in most parts of the state. In the city I have a grade school and grocery store within walking distance, as well as other amenities. I’m currently doing contract work in Clarkston, Wa and my trip to work is 30 mi rt and just as far to get groceries.

  11. Robert makes an important point here: polls. I like the revenue neutrality of I-732. But it is more important what is the general opinion and what do the legislators think. I haven’t seen any figures, has anyone else?

    Dan explained very well the (lack of) differences between CaT and CT. I would add politics to the picture. The tax will probably be set in (nominal) dollars (the proposal says $25 per ton) and should be adjusted over time according to supply and demand to keep it having the desired effect. Do you believe our politicians are able to do that? In contrast, CaT requires less political interference.

    1. Well, if it “won’t win”, might as well vote for it. If the vote in favor is anything close to significant, it will cause the legislature to realize that there’s a large constiuency pushing to do something, and maybe that’ll wake the legislators up to which way the wind is blowing.

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