No on I-732

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.

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.

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.

10 Responses

  1. From an editorial supporting I-732 on

    “Oddly enough, (I-732) has failed to impress some environmental campaigners. Washington Conservation Voters, an influential local organization, opposes it because none of the revenue will go toward funding clean energy. Climate Solutions, another local group, agrees. The Sierra Club won’t back the plan, saying its help for low-income households and minorities is insufficient.

    Those groups haven’t put their own proposal on the ballot, so they’re saying it’s better to do nothing than vote for Initiative 732. This position is absurd.Curbing carbon emissions is, or ought to be, the primary goal, and the plan would do that. In addition, it’s an opportunity to prove the viability of the carbon-tax approach and set a valuable example for the rest of the country.

    The part of the plan that seems to offend the campaigners — how the carbon-tax revenues ought to be used — is worth debating, but what matters most is to put a price on carbon, reflecting its true cost to the environment. Promising that the revenues from the carbon tax will be used to cut taxes and support low-income working families seems wise, in fact, because it lends the idea bipartisan appeal. But that isn’t the main thing. The main thing is that the measure shouldn’t fail merely because it doesn’t please every group on every point.”

    • The author obviously does not understand why these groups oppose it. Perhaps, as a journalist, he picked up the phone and called them, he’d be able to explain his lack of knowledge. That’s what journalists do. It’s what I did.

  2. People who are concerned about the policy issues should read the Sightline analysis, which is thorough and pretty even handed.

    Part 1:
    Part 2:
    Part 3:

    They don’t get into the politics. I’ll just say that the Alliance couldn’t or wouldn’t run an initiative in April a year ago, which is why CarbonWA did run I-732. They won’t be in position to run one until turn-out is high again, in 2020, and I don’t see what’s going to improve their chances of running one between the last choice point and the next one. I-732 will take a very significant step toward reducing our greenhouse gas emissions now

    As far as the Legislature goes, the Alliance wants to raise an additional billion dollars in new taxes, on top of the money that we’ll need to raise for McCleary. I-732 doesn’t increase the overall tax burden and compete with McCleary’s demands for new revenue. It uses all the money it raises from taxing CO2 pollution to cut the sales tax 1%, give a rebate of up to $1,500 to 460,000 low-income working families, and get rid of the B&O tax on manufacturing. That shifts the tax burden, and makes the system significantly more progressive, but it doesn’t increase it.

    • Yes, I’ve read all the Sightline analysis myself, and have compared it to other analysis, as I discussed. The assumptions are just that, assumptions. As mentioned, it’s all based on rosy predictions that are very hard to validate. For instance. Let’s look at BC where they have a tax. The supposed BC ‘fact’ that they have lowered greenhouse gas emissions for example, are facts that are disjointed, ie. there is no correlation in BC between the tax and the lowering of greenhouse emissions. The fact that people are driving less up there does not mean that it’s because of a higher tax. There is no way to correlate that, at all. In the meantime, they continue to work on allowing Tar Sands oil to be pushed through their ports. And they continue to work on flooding a huge valley against the wishes of the Tribes and local people. Their supposed ‘green’ label is all over the map as you look at it closely. Christie Clark is an expert at “greenwashing” her government.

      The Alliance, as I understand it, did not run their initiative because they saw that the I-732 people were determined to run theirs regardless, and they felt that if two similar initiatives were on the ballot that both would fail, and setback the efforts for years. It was a *wise move* not to run it!

      If there is anything I have learned in all my years working on environmental legislation and efforts, is that you don’t work in a vacuum. You work in alliances. If you don’t bring all the folks to the table, you ultimately fail. For example, if you don’t get the Tribes working with you, you will not succeed in many efforts, and by bringing them into an alliance, you actually have *more* success! The work of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe on the Olympic Peninsula and their leadership role in efforts such as the Dungeness River Management Team is a perfect example. The Tribe, and many very diverse politically groups, such as farmers, came together and actually are accomplishing far more together than if they wouldn’t have. So when you damn alliances such as this, with no proof, you simply seem to be showing a very naive point of view on how things get changed.

      Yes, the Alliance wants to raise taxes to build new infrastructure to help get us off fossil fuels. That is a good goal! Low and middle income people, who could be provided with solar panels and low cost renewables would see actual long term pay back for their investments. Otherwise, how are we going to get there?

      If this initiative passes, I wish it well. But sitting here on this side of the election, looking at all that it promises, and all of the feedback, I cannot support it.

  3. This coalition is BS a bunch of Seattle major big wigs who can’t come up with their own plan after a zillion years. They all supported the governors plan which did much less. They cannot stand someone out of their little club doing the right thing. Not to mention the Alliance is a farce. Just like Sierra club they do nothing and than when the real groups succeed they try and take credit.

    • Well, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. You don’t offer any real proof on your thoughts, i.e. why a bunch of “Seattle major big wigs” are any worse or better than a economics comedian and a couple of white middle and upper class people that throw together an initiative without working with a larger coalition of people who have been working diligently for years to craft something that both the Republicans and Dems can agree on?. Their “little club” you reference are made up of tens of thousands of members. And your comment about the “Sierra Club does nothing” is just hyperbole, without some facts to back it up. Please do your homework before just ranting. I did mine.

  4. I am certainly in favor of coalitions, I have been part of them, but it takes two to come to the table. The R’s in the US Congress have shown no interest in even playing the game. In fact they are stating the game doesn’t exist.

    • Yes. I meant at the local level. As in cleaning up Lake Erie.

      • There are huge number of coalitions currently active around Puget Sound. The Alliance is only one of them. Many of them have conservatives and Republicans in them at present. The work of the Northwest Straits Initiative have a number of Republicans on it. At the State level, there are R’s who have supported environmental cleanup.

  5. There is also a long account on Coalition building can also include conservatives like members of faith groups

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