Labor leader: Caution warranted on I-1631 carbon tax

Voters must weigh initiative energy price increases with jobs, environment

It’s back.

Washington voters will face a second carbon tax initiative this fall. And they should think carefully about the long-term implications of the measure on jobs and the economy, according to Mark Riker, executive director of the Washington State Building & Construction Trades Council in a column that ran recently in The Wenatchee World.

The new measure would impose a carbon “fee”   on about 100 industrial emitters in Washington – especially oil refineries and natural gas power plants. Initiative 1631 would also increase the price of gas initially by about 15 cents per gallon — and them jump to as much as 40 cents per gallon after 10 years.

Riker cautioned voters about the flip side of Initiative 1631, and the impact it could have on jobs in the state:

People on both sides of the issue will argue over the language of the initiative — is it a tax or is it a fee? — but when you get right down to it, it’s going to cost everyone more money. Increases will be felt at the gas pump, on the heating bill, and at the cash register for goods and services. Regardless of what it’s called, the I-1631 is ill defined and takes money out of everyone’s pockets.

There are also questions about how the roughly half-billion-dollars in revenue generated by the new tax would be allocated and managed, according to the Association of Washington Business, which created a flow chart to try to explain how an unelected oversight board might operate and manage the complicated flow of funds into the state’s coffers.

Just to put things in perspective, Washington’s emissions represent 1.4 percent of total U.S. carbon emissions and .021 percent of global emissions.

We already live in a very green state.  A fact all of us should be very proud of.

However it is also a state with some serious traffic and infrastructure challenges.

As Riker astutely notes, this is gamble that could jeopardize future infrastructure projects and the jobs that build them.

Passing ST3 was difficult enough — and the voters knew how that money was going to be spent. That is not the case with I-1631. It has vague guidelines for the spending of the revenue generated by the initiative. Therefore, I-1631 will likely make it more difficult to adequately fund a transportation package as it will also require the same funding mechanism.

In 2016, a similar measure, Initiative 732, was voted down by nearly 60 percent of the voters.

Between now and November, voters will have to decide again whether implementing a new tax that would put the state’s transportation system, jobs and the economy in peril is worth the risk to reduce Washington’s already miniscule carbon emissions.