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

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.