It’s the final week of the legislative session. While there was growing support for carbon taxes from the public — with multiple lobby days advocating for legislators to pass a carbon tax — we won’t get a carbon tax passed this session. SB 6203 passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy, Environment, and Technology and then the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. It had the potential to be brought to a floor vote to possibly pass the legislature with no such luck on a viable floor vote.
To assess whether the bill would likely pass a floor vote, Senators did an internal vote count. Senate leaders ultimately felt the bill fell one to two votes short. Although this shows meaningful progress, it also continues a trend of nearly a decade of inaction by our elected leaders.
Just a day after the bill died, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy officially filed its initiative for a carbon tax. They announced this news on their website. The “Protect Washington Act” aims to increase investments to accelerate the state’s transition to clean energy, restoration efforts for water and forests, and mitigation of climate change impacts on communities. The Alliance aims to get this initiative on the November 2018 ballot by gathering at least 259,622 certified signatures before early July.
Early this week, Senator Doug Eriksen filed a carbon tax bill that is very similar to the Alliance’s legal language. Unlikely to pass this session, filing a bill so similar to the initiative will generate a fiscal note, which will forecast the impact of the initiative on the state’s budget.
In 2016, I-732 was the nation’s first carbon tax initiative on the ballot. Although it didn’t pass, it led to four carbon pricing bills in the 2017 legislative session, and created the momentum for SB 6203 in the 2018 session.
Washington seems headed for a carbon tax. Opponents achieved nothing more than slowing the inevitable trajectory towards a clean energy future. We will closely watch the “Protect Washington Act” and share updates on our policy blog.
Onwards and Upwards!
The whole Carbon Washington team and guest author Myah Vasquez, a Carbon WA intern
Statement from Kyle Murphy, Executive Director, Carbon Washington
After a decade of inaction on climate change, our elected leaders have a duty and obligation to enact public policy to reduce carbon. It is clear that people in Washington want action. The legislature’s continued failure to do so is disturbing.
SB 6203 made history as the first carbon tax in the country to be voted out of two legislative committees, and by coming within a single vote or two in the Senate. The support from environmental, tribal, and business interests was groundbreaking and builds on considerable progress in Washington to elevate a conversation about climate change and a price on carbon. While I-732, the nation’s first carbon tax initiative put to Washington voters in 2016 didn’t pass at the polls, it was the basis for four carbon pricing bills introduced in the 2017 legislature, and created an opportunity for the legislature to seriously consider SB 6203 in the 2018 session.
Climate action in Washington is coming. Opponents of this bill achieved little beyond a temporary delay in our inevitable trajectory toward a clean energy future. Carbon Washington will now focus its efforts on putting a price on carbon this year at the ballot or next year in the legislature.
Future generations are counting on us, and we will continue to mobilize citizens, provide leadership, and advocate for effective, equitable, economically sound, evidence-based, and politically feasible policies to address climate change.