Carbon Tax Measure Will Make The Washington Ballot, Backers Say – Earthfix

With the carbon tax initiative now officially having reached it’s goal of signatures, one might be tempted to think that this is a great idea, right? It’s been promoted by a wide range of environmental activists, and you likely have seen them and probably even signed the initiative without much thought. I know I did. Well, the issue is far more complex.

While this initiative is sponsored by some well meaning people, it does not encompass the thinking of a coalition of environmental organizations and labor. Senator Keven Ranker, who has been trying unsuccessfully for many years to pass just such a tax, and is considered the most environmentally active legislator in Olympia, is not in favor of it. Why? Because trial polling has apparently shown that this wording is not very clear or convincing to voters, and it does nothing to build on jobs in exchange for carbon reductions. Ranker is very worried that putting forward a badly worded initiative such as this, with no real jobs component, will rankle both the Republican climate deniers and labor. That would be a death knell for the initiative, he claims. He also mentioned, in a wide ranging talk with Ashley Ahearn at the Annual Northwest Straits Conference in November (audio available here: (starts at 22:27) that the possible outcomes is that the initiative will now go to the legislature, and they could rewrite it, and end up with two competing versions on the ballot, and if the Alliance initiative gets on the ballot, it could even mean three!  (this would be very bad for it’s passing, and is likely to happen given the Republican desire to kill it).

The competing initiative has been carefully thought out by a large coalition of environmental groups such as WEC, and Sierra Club, representative organizations from communities of color, the Tribes, Unions such as the AFL-CIO and SEIU, and even members of retired people’s organizations.  (in full disclosure, I am a member of WEC). If both, or all, of these go forward, the confusion may lead to all of them failing, and in Rankers’ mind, will set back the carbon tax possibility for many years to come. The Alliance initiative contains provisions to reinvest the collected carbon tax into local jobs . As their web site says, “The funds will be invested in accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy and addressing the impacts of carbon pollution on our air, land and people.”  This seems to be a more useful approach that directly ties jobs to cleaning up the environment. It would be much harder for the Republican opposition to effectively attack.

There seems to be some thoughts, that the two initiative teams could and should pull their teams together and craft one workable solution, that both can push forward together and actually get passed. That would be the optimum situation, which would allow the Tax and Refund initiative to get the support of the large alliance of the Tax and Reinvest initiative. If this merger does not happen, it will be mean a loss of a huge amount of turn-out-the-vote workers, that these alliance organizations have at their disposal. Those forces will be getting people to vote on the competing initiative and could lead to both failing as the voters may be confused enough to turn both down.

If you have been involved in getting signatures for the tax and refund initiative you might consider calling the initiative office and telling them you support an merged version that gets the Alliance folks onboard too.

For a more detailed read on the battle over these initiatives, you can read:

A voter initiative that would put a tax on carbon emissions has gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot in 2016. The measure would impose a tax of $25 for every ton of carbon emitted when fossil fuels are burned. Backers of the measure say that will increase some consumer prices, like what people pay for gasoline. The measure also calls for carbon tax’s revenue to be used to lower the state sales tax, effectively eliminate the B&O tax on manufacturers and to provide rebates to lower income households. Carbon Washington, the group behind the carbon tax, says it has gathered more than 330,000 signatures from Washington voters. If validated, the initiative will go to the state legislature in January. The legislature could adopt the initiative as is, or it will go to the voters in 2016. Ashley Ahearn reports. (EarthFix)

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