Week 1 (May 1-7): Learn about the various proposals and think about what is important to you. .
The carbon tax bills: The Seattle Weekly was among the first to cover Senator Palumbo’s carbon tax bill, introduced on April 20th. Carbon Washington provided an analysis of this bill (SB 5930). Earlier, in January, Investigate West pointed to a possible sticking point in the governor’s carbon tax proposal. Any proposal will likely undergo significant changes during the budget negotiation, so don’t count out any bill just yet. This was signaled in the joint article by Crosscut/Investigate West published earlier in session.
The bill sponsored by Representative Joe Fitzgibbon and backed by the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy (HB 1646) would spend the money on a clean-energy transition, and would not direct any funds towards education. It received a partial support from 350 Seattle,which wanted amendments to the bill “to include stronger emission-reduction goals that are included in HB 1372.” CarbonWA has taken a neutral position; our testimony on the bill is here.
Senator Hobbs’ bill (SB 5385) was introduced early, and is currently in the Senate Energy & Environment committee. It would direct half of the money to K-12 transportation. The remaining share is spread out for stormwater funds, habitat restoration, energy investment, and highway maintenance. Senator Palumbo’s bill, SB 5930, in many ways is an updated version of Hobbs’ bill. You can read our analysis of Palumbo’s bill here.
Governor Inslee’s proposal (SB 5127) is currently in the Senate Rules Committee. The majority of revenue is directed towards K-12 education, and the remaining is spread out for “energy efficiency, electrification of transportation, and other activities that will further cut greenhouse gas emissions in the state.” Audubon WA supported both the Governor’s and Alliance bills. 350 Seattle did not endorse this bill, “based on its limited funding for green energy, its failure to address climate justice, and because of its exemption for the state’s only coal-burning power plant.” CarbonWA is generally supportive of this bill but is concerned about the coal exemption.
Don’t get too fixated on a single proposal, because it is likely that these bills will be heavily modified if any one of them is to pass. Instead, think about the most important factors for you and be prepared to communicate them to your legislators. For CarbonWA, the important thing is that any bill be effective, equitable, and politically feasible.
On the national level, carbon taxes are gaining momentum. Although Republican lawmakers are hesitant to introduce legislation, many have vocally supported the idea of a carbon tax, such as the one modeled by the Climate Leadership Council. This approach received commentary in the Washington Post and by Charles Komanoff from the Carbon Tax Center. This presents an opportunity to think about what’s important in a policy. With an initiative process, like I-732, we avoided many of the political tradeoffs. All of these articles highlight the difficulties that a carbon tax will face through the legislative process.