Few who care about climate change deny how urgent the crisis is; the question remains how we can most effectively tackle it. I-732 would tax the use of fossil fuels (for most, that’d mean a slightly higher price at the pump and home heating costs), then return that money to taxpayers in the form of cuts in sales taxes, business taxes, and an as-yet-unfunded state tax rebate for low-income working families. It is, in short, a “revenue-neutral” carbon tax, an economic concept that has worked to reduce emissions in Vancouver, B.C., and which is now being implemented across Canada. The major environmental groups that oppose I-732 say it does not do enough. It relies on market forces to drive down emissions, rather than using the money from a carbon tax to invest in renewable energy. It does little for the low-income communities of color most affected by carbon pollution and climate change. They also point to suspicions that I-732 could become revenue-negative, rather than revenue-neutral, and cost the state money in the end. These are legitimate concerns. But we believe, like the Sightline Institute, an environmental think tank that closely analyzed the measure, that I-732 is revenue-neutral, “to the best of anyone’s ability to forecast it.” And as for the measure’s effect on low-income communities, reducing the sales tax and funding an unfunded state tax credit is nothing to sneeze at. But the real reason we’re voting for I-732 is that we believe this is not an either/or decision. It is not the only way to combat climate change in this state, and it will not be the last. We understand the fear that passing a revenue-neutral carbon tax now could eliminate the political will to pass a revenue-positive one in the future. But Washington state has rarely had the political will to pass any kind of revenue-positive tax increase; neither has the legislature demonstrated the will to pass state climate policy. Sure, I-732 is a compromise. It’s also a way to do something—now.
Read the rest of Seattle Weekly’s endorsements for the 2016 general election here.