Sometimes the best way to defeat an opponent is to fully understand their belief or ideology in order to point out the flaws.
After reading literature on the proponents of taxing carbon in Washington, I’m convinced of the benefits. (I will say I had a small amount of previous knowledge about the idea of taxing carbon from my time abroad.) I hope putting an overview of I-732 next to pieces of the opposition will highlight misconceptions or details of interest.
The carbon tax currently at the state legislature, proposed by CarbonWA, is Initiative 732, which is modeled after British Colombia’s carbon tax. Like British Colombia, Washington’s bill would include a reduction in (sales) tax replaced by a tax per ton on carbon that is gradually increased until reaching the end goal. The hope with both taxes is to effectively, immediately start cutting back on the burning of carbon-emitting non-renewable resources. Although the current prime minister and some industries are indifferent, British Colombia’s tax is seen as somewhat successful. CarbonWA’s proposed tax would include provide rebates to lower-income households, effectively taxing them less than those above 400,000.
The biggest opposition seems to be calling I-732 not revenue-neutral, meaning it would not increase or decrease taxes (“Northwest Progressive Institute”). There have been multiple groups/organizations, nonpartisan and partisan, who have run analyses, both coming to different outcomes; CarbonWA states those analyses of lost revenue come from the an incorrect observation on the Working Families Rebate. The Working Families Rebate, passed in 2008, produced a non-funded tax cut never implemented; the rebate would work to “offset the costs of a necessary revenue increase for lower income working families” (Budget and Policy). CarbonWA’s proposal would shift revenue gained from its taxes to fund the Working Families Rebate. Conservative legislators see this as a loss of funds,’ even though there was technically no funds lost if they were not there in the first place?
The same sources above also believe the bill to be ‘poorly written’ and do not seem to be fans of the leader of CarbonWA, Yoram Bauman. They poke fun at Bauman on record saying that the price of gas would increase; except, obviously, the price of gas would increase if the supplier (those emitting tons of carbon) were now being taxed? The point of the tax is to cut emissions, which cannot be done if people are willing to continually pay a lower amount on fuel.
The opposition seems to be more in favor of a cap-and-trade system, like California, versus a carbon tax. The cap-and-trade system would limit the emissions over time, with more payments coming from those would emit more. The Environmental Defense Fund sees the ‘trade’ part of this as a way to investment and innovation. The cap-and-trade system, which I have not delved into at this time, seems to be very similar to making those pay per ton emitted, but with an obvious limit by the ‘cap’ in cap-and-trade system. Cap and trade sounds great on paper, but I believe the ‘cap’ to be fictitious; I believe just like taxing per ton, there will be companies that can afford to pay the fees associated with producing more emissions. The cap and trade system emits a well-liked proposal because the amount ‘fined’ is not directly applied; the amount fined is only happening when one goes over the cap.
These sources highlight that the legislature is looking to make the issue of taxing carbon become aligned with the political parties in the United States. Most notably, last month the Washington State Democratic Party stated on record they are opposed to CarbonWA’s tax proposal. The more conservative side will always be against more taxes, historically. And, if only continuing to vote in a dominant two-party system, there will be more voters against the tax if both ‘sides’ are not showing full support.
In summary, there is no complete summary. More time is needed to completely find out the initial, hidden reasoning behind not supporting I-732; it seems there are underlying issues and hidden agendas within the opposition, while the supporters and CarbonWA just want to do something to drastically cut carbon emissions.
Can you imagine a world in the far future where we cannot rely on the taxation of carbon to sustain our tax system? This could be a reality if the CarbonWA tax is established to help drastically cut down on non-renewable resource usage. If others can do it, couldn’t the state of Washington?