I have taken a bit of heat lately, over my decision to vote NO on I-732. I have been following the debate on this initiative for over a year, and feel I have a pretty good grasp on the issue. My analysis: It’s the wrong initiative at the right time.
First, off. When I read a quote in the New York Times, by the person who is behind the initiative that says (the writer is talking about the initiative writer) :
This brings me back to my friend, Yoram Bauman, who sent me that headline. He is an environmental economist and stand-up comedian (yes, an unusual combo). He is also one of the leaders of the effort in Washington State to pass a carbon tax. He has been working tirelessly to build support.
Based on his experiences, he has a message for environmental activists: “I am increasingly convinced that the path to climate action is through the Republican Party. Yes, there are challenges on the right — skepticism about climate science and about tax reform — but those are surmountable with time and effort. The same cannot be said of the challenges on the left: an unyielding desire to tie everything to bigger government, and a willingness to use race and class as political weapons in order to pursue that desire.
That, my friends, is absurd on it’s face. Those of in the environmental movement (left right and center) have been stymied again and again by the Congress, controlled by the very same Republican Party that Yoram claims wants to solve the issue. They not only have offered no alternatives, but they deny it’s even a problem. You may remember that the last time they crafted an energy bill, under Dick Cheney, the did not even invite one environmental representative to the meetings. At that meeting, they put together legislation that allowed fracking to be done with no environmental oversight. They allowed fracking fluid to be dumped, and it is still dumped, in our rivers and oceans every day with no environmental oversight. Since then, over the last 8 years, they have stymied any attempt to put in place climate change law. They are boasting that they will overturn the Paris Climate agreement if Trump should win and they take over Congress and the Presidency. Luckily, that seems a long shot at this moment.
Mr. Bauman seems very naive about how the political sausage gets made. In this year of Donald (I will end the EPA) Trump, Dr. Jill (I’m not so sure about vaccines) Stein, and Gary (no need to worry about global warming as the sun will burn us up in a billion years) Johnson, is it surprising to find bad ideas made into an initiative by someone saying something like this? Is there something we are missing in his motives? According to his resume, he is a PhD in Economics. Frankly, I’m burned out on economists trying to force their voodoo on us. Think I’m alone in this thought? None other than the venerable David Suzuki supports this line of thinking. A quick thought on economists by David. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wiZoGZJN3s
The initiative will give huge tax breaks to Boeing, will reduce the tax on all manufacturing businesses, while stripping tax revenues, if their predictions prove wrong, from the State just as the state needs it to fund basic education, something it has not been doing properly, well forever, according to the Supreme Court of Washington. The Seattle Times said, “state officials, who have forecast that instead of being revenue neutral as intended, I-732 would bring at least a short-term cut to the general fund of $797.2 million over six fiscal years.” We cannot afford a roll of the dice like that now. Education funding is at stake. In Jefferson County I’m finding some of the same people wanting to McCleary fully funded supporting this initiative. Help me understand how this won’t affect the McCleary funding fiasco?
Reducing the B&O tax on manufacturing gives a huge tax break to Boeing. And what about the rest of the small businesses who pay B&O? They likely will find themselves right in the cross hairs of more tax increases because who else is going to be taxed to raise the money to meet the McCleary Decision?
It seems like a dream initiative. They say that no one gets hurt. I just don’t believe that for a minute.
Will the initiative actually help those affected by the rising prices of fossil fuel? The analysis by Siteline, which was generally in favor of I-732 glided over the following statement, “Still, it does have a hole in it: some 340,000 low-income families do not qualify for the Working Families Tax Credit. Some of them, perhaps many of them, will end up worse off by tens of dollars each year because the sales tax cut won’t fully offset their increased carbon costs. Some of them might come out as much as a few hundred dollars a year behind. The Working Families Tax Credits and sales tax cuts are important improvements on the status quo, but we lament I-732’s lack of additional funds to help low-income Washingtonians.” Really. So we should pass despite this failing? This is really the crux of the argument. It is a win for Boeing and a loss for perhaps 340,000 lower to middle income families who will have to pay the increased costs with no rebate from the State? If you were a single mom eking out a living watching all your cost of living go up while your pay is stagnant, would feel like a valid tradeoff? If you were having to choose between medication for your kids or paying higher costs at the pump to get to work would you think this is a fair choice? As I understand it, over 800 families are using the food bank in Jefferson County each week. Are those folks going to get the tax credit or just pay higher prices at the pump and/or on their electrical and heating bills?
Additionally, the initiative will do nothing to build new non polluting infrastructure to replace the bad carbon polluters.
The alternative is an initiative that was not put on the ballot (for fear that having two competing initiatives would kill both) that was widely supported by the environmental community, unions and minority communities, and would use the raised revenues to put in place new green infrastructure and create jobs.
To go along with the many environmental organizations opposing I-732, which include the Sierra Club, (see their letter of non support here ) is the fact that State Senator Kevin Ranker, the most environmentally progressive senator in the state, has come out against the bill, should tell you something. He agrees that it doesn’t really change anything, and likely will stymie real progress for years.
So if it does not end up being revenue neutral, where will we come up with the money to fill that hole in the budget? Follow the money. Likely no where, so look for additional cuts to environmental work, which is where a lot of McCleary’s funding is already being found.
The environmentally progressive network FUSE came out against the initiative with a very well laid out argument. Read it here.
Can we do something about getting an initiative backed by a much larger coalition? You bet. By this time next year we can have a much better initiative on the ballot. Who’s backing the Alliance for Clean Energy and Jobs, who are ready to go with it? How about Greenpeace as a starter? The Sierra Club? Unions galore? Many Tribes? Here’s their steering committee. And check out the vastly longer list of their supporters at their web site. http://jobscleanenergywa.com/about-the-alliance-for-jobs-and-clean-energy/
The Alliance Steering Committee
- De’Sean Quinn | African American Community
- Matt deGooyer | American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific
- Tony Lee | Asian Pacific Islander Coalition
- Vlad Gutman | Climate Solutions
- Aiko Schaefer | Front & Centered
- Rosalinda Guillen | Community to Community
- Cheri Cornell | CoolMom
- LeeAnne Beres | Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power & Light
- Mark Liffmann | Environmental Entrepreneurs
- Jill Mangaliman | Got Green
- Peter Bloch-Garcia | Latino Community Fund
- Nancy Hirsh | Northwest Energy Coalition
- Rich Stolz | OneAmerica
- Robby Stern | Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action
- Rebecca Saldana | Puget Sound Sage
- Kelly Hall | Renewable Northwest
- Adam Glickman | SEIU 775
- Bill Arthur | Sierra Club
- Ricardo Gotla | Transportation Choices Coalition
- Josh Meidav | Tulalip Tribe
- Jason Barbose | Union of Concerned Scientists
- Sarah Cherin |UFCW 21
- Brenna Davis | Washington Businesses for Climate Action
- Mauricio Ayon | Washington Community Action Network
- Shannon Murphy | Washington Conservation Voters
- Becky Kelley | Washington Environmental Council
- Sarah Clifthorne | Washington Federation of State Employees
- Ken Lans | Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
- Jeff Johnson | Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Think this through carefully before you vote. It’s damn complex and damn risky. If we are wrong here, and vote this into law and it fails to deliver, it will stymie real change for the good for over a decade.
Filed under: Government Legislation, Puget Sound | 10 Comments »