I suspect most self-identified progressive groups would agree that human-caused climate change is an emergency that requires sacrifice to overcome. That’s why it’s so disappointing that State leaders like Governor Inslee are so lukewarm about I-732, a revenue-neutral carbon tax, because they are subordinating the need to reduce emissions to other political objectives. This kitchen sink style of legislating diffuses the needed climate focus of the legislation, and in the eyes of the median voter will appear as just another means of enlarging state government.
What’s so frustrating and cynical about this stance is that the deep cuts to sales tax and B&O tax in I-732 create space to restore those taxes to fund other state priorities. But some obviously fear that those priorities are too unpopular to win a vote on their own merits, and are willing to make climate action less palatable to moderates, in the hope of attaching unrelated goals to what should be a focused emergency response.
Now the state political establishment has an organizational ally in unions and “climate justice” groups, looking to use carbon taxes to fund their pet projects instead of rewarding people with tax rebates:
Revenue-neutral is not going to get us to accelerate the investments in communities that are most severely impacted,” Garcia said. “If we just cap carbon across everything, communities of color and low-income communities are not ever going to proportionally become equal. They will always be more affected.
This is disappointing doublespeak. If raising sales tax .1% to pay for transit is decried as disproportionately impacting the poor, then it stands to reason that a proposed sales tax cut that is an order of magnitude larger would disproportionately benefit the poor. On top of that Initiative 732 would give tax rebates to 400,000 low income Washingtonians.
Most interesting of all, the opponents are taking a page out of the gun lobby playbook by shopping a competing initiative on the same ballot, confusing and dividing voters:
Local labor, environmental, and social justice groups are sick of hearing debates over clean energy framed as “jobs versus the environment.” Today, a sweeping alliance of these groups announced that they’re reframing the argument by working together toward a climate initiative on the 2016 ballot…
Because what we’re saying is that we’re not going to allow workers to sacrifice their income, or their health, or their pension benefits because we want to do something around climate. We want to do both.”
This seems like a colossal misreading of the optics of spending and tax cuts, especially for a statewide vote. Taxes fund a lot of wonderful and necessary things, but they take money from people and some believe they can lead to job losses. It seems odd to position I-732, which would reduce regressive taxes and put money in the hands of small businesses, as anti-job or anti-poor people.
To be clear, if presented by itself I wouldn’t hesitate to vote for the alternate initiative, even without any inkling of how they’d spend the proceeds, because I believe that climate change is a true emergency. Indeed, if transit spending is a big part of the mix I might actually prefer it as a matter of policy. But I-732 is likely much more appealing to the median voter, and I find the attempt of some progressives to couple their pet issues to the climate contemptible given the urgency of the problem.
I encourage you to support I-732. You can start by going here.