HB 1646 Testimony to the House Environment Committee
Submitted by Mike Massa, Co-Chair of Carbon Washington
March 14, 2017
Thank you to Chair Fitzgibbon, and the members of the committee, for this opportunity to provide testimony regarding HB 1646.
I am speaking on behalf of Carbon Washington, a statewide, nonpartisan, grassroots organization focused on accelerating the transition to a vibrant clean-energy economy. We advocate for policies to reduce carbon pollution in ways that are effective, fair, economically sound, and politically feasible. Carbon Washington was the chief sponsor of Initiative 732, a revenue-neutral carbon tax measure that went before state voters in November 2016.
First, we want to recognize and thank the organizations and individuals who have put in tremendous work over many years to develop HB 1646.
We applaud the sponsors for designing a carbon tax mechanism combining broad coverage with a steadily rising price that is tied to the state’s emission goals. Economists across the political spectrum agree that such a policy is the most effective and least cost way to reduce carbon pollution. We believe this should be Washington’s primary clean energy transition strategy.
We also strongly support the inclusion of a cash rebate for low-income households to offset the impact of the carbon tax. We would even support expanding the size of that program to avoid raising costs for state residents who are already burdened by a regressive tax structure.
The inclusion of investments in forest management and water resources, if appropriately administered, will help mitigate the impacts of climate change in Washington, such as wildfires, drought, and floods.
Despite those positive features, Carbon Washington cannot fully support HB 1646 without some improvements.
While we support the goals of the clean energy programs, a spending package of this size deserves additional scrutiny at a time when the state is facing major funding needs in education and mental health, and when many communities are still struggling to recover from the Great Recession. This portion of HB 1646 lacks sufficient accountability and oversight to ensure that taxpayers’ funds are spent both effectively and efficiently with broad benefits. We would like to see stronger accountability measures in these programs as well as a re-evaluation of the spending priorities to include other pressing state needs, like education, or broad tax relief for lower and middle income households. We would also welcome the incorporation of policy priorities from conservative and business leaders to make sure our climate policies work for everyone in the state.
Thank you again to the Chair and committee members for your consideration, and to the backers of HB 1646 for putting forward a concrete plan with many good elements. Carbon Washington looks forward to working with you on bipartisan clean-energy policies that enable all people of our state to prosper.
Carbon tax friends, be proud of what we’ve accomplished
Together, we accomplished something historic by putting the nation’s first statewide carbon tax before the voters. We showed that there is a strong desire for common-sense climate action in Washington State, and we influenced the national conversation on climate policy. We ran an honest, transparent, and positive campaign focused on addressing the climate and equity problems facing our society. We did all of that thanks to you.
The votes are still being counted, but we’re on track to get well over 1 million votes in support of a policy that would have created one of the strongest carbon prices in the world and been the biggest improvement in the fairness of our state’s tax system in 40 years. We led the biggest voter education effort on climate change ever in the state. We knocked on over 100,000 doors, made over 1 million phone calls, and published more than 140 letters to the editor in every type of media outlet. Our campaign raised more than $1.5 million from thousands of donors with a median donation of $50.
We formed a terrific partnership with Audubon Washington and with grassroots organizations across the state, especially chapters of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (both in Washington State and as far away as Hawaii!); regional climate action groups like Climate Action Bainbridge, Cascadia Climate Action, Olympic Climate Action, Oregon Climate (now Our Climate), and Divest UW; faith organizations including theClimate Action Ministry at Eastshore Unitarian, Interfaith Works, and Washington UU Voices; clean energy groups like Seattle Electric Vehicles, Seattle Transit Blog, and Solar Installers of Washington; and many others, including Conservation Hawks, the American Sustainable Business Council, AIA Seattle, and the American Planning Association’s Washington Chapter.
During the last legislative session, our proposal brought all of the major stakeholders to the table for the first time. We later gained endorsements not just from Democrats but also from prominent Republicans like Rob McKenna, Slade Gorton, Mark Miloscia, Steve Litzow, and Joe Fain—and even when we didn’t get endorsements we managed to neutralize much of the opposition from businesses and conservatives.
And we made a huge splash in the national and international media, generating over 200 articles about the campaign including in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, and appearances on the PBS NewsHour (twice!), HBO Vice News Tonight (new here!), and on the Years of Living Dangerously series (episode coming soon!).
We have more work to do
We must continue the fight against climate change. Global carbon concentrations continue to increase, global average temperatures continue to rise, and with Trump in the White House it will be even more important to pursue climate policies at the state and local level that can reduce emissions and show the way forward for the nation and for the world.
What comes next
With your help, Carbon Washington will continue to support effective, equitable, economically sound, and politically viable solutions to carbon reduction. We are determining what form the organization will take going forward and the policy actions we will pursue in the new political environment. We are open to working with any and all individuals or groups who share our goals.
We are thinking through our next steps, and we want to hear your thoughts on the election and where this movement that you helped build should go next. We are organizing a debriefing event along with a statewide conference call. More details will be provided in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we want to hear your feedback and thoughts. Please contact us at email@example.com.
You may also be interested in meeting with your state legislators during House Committee Days December 1-2 to convey your concerns about climate change. Executive Committee member Greg Rock will be there, so you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this more.
It is grassroots supporters like you who made this groundbreaking effort possible. You are the energy that powers Carbon Washington.
Thank you for your dedication to the campaign and your hard work over the past years! Our work is just beginning…
From the whole Carbon Washington team