February 23rd, 2016 was a beautiful sunny Tuesday in Olympia, a good day for my first time to visit the capital of the state of Washington. I went to support I-732, which is a carbon tax initiative designed to be “revenue-neutral”. For some reason, I was unable to meet with my home district legislator – 43rd District. So there I was joining force with other fellow lobbyists to meet with legislators from other districts.
The first meeting was with Sen. Karen Fraser and Rep. Reykdal, legislators from the 22nd district. As we all started to introduce ourselves, I noticed the legislators and other lobbyists were quite surprised (in a good way) to see some are students from University of Washington show up to support the I-732. Later, I realized the younger generation balanced out the rest of the CarbonWA supporters and the legislators. The fellow lobbyists intensely presented their issues and initiatives that I could follow along with on the material sheet shared to all other CarbonWA supporters, as well as additional data statistics on the Washington 2050 Emissions Forecasts prepared by environmentalists in the room. The legislators expressed their interest in this initiative, but in my opinion, they seem to have been familiar with what was presented to them and were unsure with their position on this I-732. In conclusion, the legislators were eager to review I-732, but they did not seem set on completely choosing a carbon tax. They also showed interest in other schemes to limit emissions, such as cap-and-trade scheme and current incentives of renewable energy.
The second meeting I attended was with Rep. Joan McBride from the 48th district. She expressed her strong support for I-732 and, shockingly, she said that she would still support it even if it is not necessarily revenue-neutral. The short discussion was more about asking the concerns from the legislator’s point of view and requesting feedback on what CarbonWA supporters can do to make it through. She suggested following up on the financial outlook of the OFM’s fiscal note and even though she supports emails, urging people to send more letters presenting their knowledge and concerns to their legislators.
Besides having a great experience and gaining more knowledge on the carbon tax initiative, seeing the enthusiasm from fellow supporters and openness from the legislatures was very eye-opening. As we learned in class, it is not easy task between choosing a simple framework and holding out for the “perfect” (read: complicated) solution, which may never come. I hope more and more initiatives, like I-732, reach out to a diverse range of supporters for more powerful voice, and offer the opportunity for collaboration and a dialogue between the public and legislators.
Disclaimer: My presence and some other students were recorded in the blog Nearly 80 I-732 Supporters Turn Out for Lobby Day in Olympia. To add/ clarify what I meant to say in the blog, after learning in one of my classes about construction issues associated with renewable energy production technology, renewable energy projects are often not a cost-effective option. This is changing through technology advancement, however there is definitely a gap to our target in reducing carbon emissions if we just rely on technology development; we need more policies to establish the best course of action that appears to be lowering fossil fuel consumption while making the renewable energy choice more appealing. Finally, such changes must be carefully enacted with thorough consideration to produce meaningful results instead of expedient political purposes.