Washington’s carbon tax differs from B.C. | Brunell

In Olympia, Gov. Jay Inslee is pushing lawmakers to enact a new tax on carbon gas emissions before the legislature adjourns on March 8.

Inslee wants Democrats, who now control the Legislature, to approve a $20 metric ton levy. He says it is necessary to combat the effects of climate change and would start in 2019. There would be no corresponding tax offsets as provided in British Columbia and under I-732 which is the ballot measure Washington voters rejected in 2016. Nor is there a cap on future tax increases.

The additional money would go to pay for projects that reduce greenhouse gases, manage stormwater and reduce wildfire risks. Unlike B.C.’s scheme, Inslee’s plan includes exemptions for aviation petrol and fossil fuels used in agriculture.

The governor’s office reported the tax increases on consumers would range from 4 to 5 percent for electricity, 9 to 11 percent for natural gas, and 6 to 9 percent on gasoline.

“Over four years, the tax would generate $3.3 billion. Averaged across the state’s 2.7 million households, that’s about $1,200,” Seattle Times columnist Brier Dudley wrote in late December.

Dudley examined B.C.’s carbon levy which was enacted in 2008. He found it is failing to reduce carbon pollution as promised. “Emissions from driving are rising faster than population growth in B.C., despite a carbon tax higher than Inslee’s proposal.”

Recent data says greenhouse discharges increased 2.3 percent from 2013 to 2015. That includes a 7.2 percent increase in transportation emissions, the main focus of the B.C. and Washington plans.

B.C. isn’t likely to meet its 2020 carbon-reduction goals. On its current trajectory, the province will miss its target of an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

If the carbon tax was the only costly climate-oriented proposal in Olympia this year, that would be one thing. But simultaneously, other legislators are pushing a Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

If lawmakers approve both taxes, Washington families could be facing 35 to 45 cents more per gallon at the pump – on top of the 68 cents we already pay in federal and state gas taxes.

Then there is the tax cap issue. Without a cap, B.C.’s rate went from an initial $10 per ton (Canadian) to $30 by 2012.

British Columbia polling shows citizen and business support for the carbon tax is increasing. Even though gas was about 20 cents a gallon higher in 2016, the selling point was the tax offsets.

Carole Taylor, the provincial minister of finance when the legislation was approved, told the New York Times the parliament “provided critical political cover by ensuring every single carbon tax dollar would be returned to families and businesses through a variety of breaks.”

The province’s corporate income tax was cut from 12 percent to 10 and personal rates dropped. All total, the B.C. government returned $1.7 billion (Canadian) to businesses and families in 2016. The problem is only $1.2 billion was collected from the carbon tax.

Even though Canadian tax advocates insist it works, they’re seeking an overhaul and rate increases in hopes of meeting future climate and revenue goals.

Before our state lawmakers pass a tax proposal of this magnitude, they need to look at the progress our state already is making on reducing greenhouse gases and ask if it is needed.

While Washington’s population has increased 43 percent since 1990 and the economy has grown by 260 percent, carbon emissions are down by 18 percent, according to EPA.

The key question is Washington’s carbon tax simply an added way to fund state government. If it is, lawmakers need to make to their case to voters at election time.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.

More in Opinion

Lawmakers on the road to finding car tab relief

One of the last spitball fights among lawmakers in the 2018 session… Continue reading

Snowy winter is here

A winter storm earlier in the week brought a thick blanket of… Continue reading

Controversial 2018 election mailers were audacious – and legal

Misleading postcards didn’t violate election laws because they touted non-candidates, the PDC found

Student debt draining retired income | Brunell

Lots has been written about students exiting college saddled with hefty student… Continue reading

Washington farmers need tariff relief | Brunell

The good news is Washington’s cherry crop is projected to be as… Continue reading

What happens after the bin? Behind the scenes at the recycling center

For many residents in Auburn, recycling isn’t a chore, it’s a life… Continue reading

Private sector is stepping up for tourism | Brunell

Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. That’s particularly true… Continue reading

3 years in the making: new law on police use of deadly force

Legislators are about to pass a bill that will permit officers to kill only in ‘good faith’

Gov. Jay Inslee. REPORTER FILE PHOTO
Inslee sounding more presidential than ever

“Washington’s Unwritten Chapter” was the title of the State of the State… Continue reading

Male-only no more: The next House Speaker will be a woman

Frank Chopp’s reign as speaker of the state House of Representatives will… Continue reading

East Coast seaports ramping up capabilities | Brunell

While many eyes are fixed on trade talks between our country and… Continue reading

New year will bring new libraries, opportunities

On Jan. 16, I will celebrate my one-year anniversary as the King… Continue reading