By Taylor McAvoy

By Taylor McAvoy

Governor’s carbon tax proposal is dead in the state Legislature

The bill’s failure sets the stage for a possible initiative on the November ballot.

An amended version of Governor Jay Inslee’s proposal to tax carbon emissions to fight climate change is effectively dead in the state Legislature.

The primary sponsor of the carbon tax bill and its shepherd in the state Senate, Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D–Seattle, said on March 1 in a phone interview that the bill is “one to two” votes short and that it’s “not going to come up for a vote” to pass it out of the Senate before the end of the 2018 legislative session.

“The governor and I finalized the absolute numbers this morning,” said Carlyle. “We were damn close.”

The session ends on March 8.

In January, Inslee proposed taxing carbon emissions at a rate of $20 per metric ton with annual increases for inflation while exempting certain manufacturers, agricultural industries, and jet fuel. The proposal would have increased the cost of electricity, gasoline, and natural gas.

His plan would have invested the revenues into renewable energy infrastructure, wildfire suppression, and assistance for low-income families struggling with increased energy costs.

Despite the legislation’s frosty reception from Republicans and lukewarm enthusiasm from Senate and House Democratic leadership, the bill slowly wound its way through the Senate legislative process.

It passed out of the Senate Energy, Environment, and Technology Committee on Feb. 1, before moving through the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 22. However, without enough votes in the entire Senate chamber, it won’t be brought up for a floor vote.

The bill was altered in its journey through the state Senate. In contrast to the governor’s original proposal, the tax rate in the latest version of the bill was reduced to $12 per ton with a cap at $30 and more industry exemptions were added.

“We didn’t get to the peak of Mount Everest but we made it well past base camp to damn near the top,” Carlyle said.

Passing a carbon tax was a priority for Inslee, who has proposed taxing carbon pollution in some form several years in a row. None of his proposals have made it through the Legislature.

On Feb. 13, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry came to the state Capitol on Inslee’s invitation to promote the carbon tax bill.

Throughout the 2018 legislative session, local environmental groups threatened to field a carbon tax ballot initiative later this year if lawmakers didn’t pass Inslee’s proposal.

The legislation garnered the support of some business and energy industry interests, who opted to work with lawmakers on crafting the bill than face a fixed carbon tax ballot initiative.

In 2016, a different carbon tax ballot initiative was voted down by roughly 20 points.

Carlyle said that he hopes that the governor’s altered carbon tax bill informs how the potential ballot initiative is drafted.

“I feel nothing but pride in our team and the work we did,” he said, before going on to claim that a carbon tax will be enacted in Washington state within two years. “I think the seal is broken and the precedent is set.”

This report was produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

More in Northwest

Father and daughter to graduate from Olympic College together, on Father’s Day

“I was just going to get my degree and walk away and she said, ‘No way!’”

Amelia Allen (left) looks down at the track as she races another driver in unweighted practice soap box derby cars June 7 on Camano Island. The 11th Stanwood-Camano Soap Box Derby takes place Saturday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Brand-new track, permanent Camano home for Soap Box Derby

Races involving 73 cars are on Saturday at a converted ranch where striped pavement belongs to kids.

Music on the Strait festival to debut this summer in Port Angeles

The even is intended to host great live music on Labor Day weekend and give Port Angeles yet another economic draw.

Mourners plan vigils for family members killed in Brinnon fire

The cause of the explosion and fire has not yet been determined.

World Cup may be coming to Seattle in 2026

The United Bid that won out names Seattle as one of 23 potential host city candidates.

Neo-Nazis distribute fliers throughout Bellevue

The fliers were found in neighborhoods near Clyde Hill Elementary School and Chinook Middle School with candy seemingly designed to attract children.

Competitors gear up for Race to Alaska

The race, now in its fourth year, features competitors from the U.S., Australia, British Columbia, and France.

Charles Pillon sits inside one of the several buses on Iron Mountain. Photo by Caean Couto
The likely last days of Iron Mountain

After battling King County government for decades, Charles Pillon may have finally lost the fight over his illegal 10-acre junkyard.

Neah Bay seeing rise in green crab catches

Neah Bay European green crab total nearly 10 times more than Dungeness

Most Read