Washington State Considers Carbon Tax

Elizabeth Friedman

The Campus Climate Coalition (CCC) is trying to drum up support in favor of initiative i732, a bill that will create a state-wide carbon tax. The carbon tax is a revenue neutral approach to a carbon price. CCC is working with Carbon Washington, a non-partisan organization that’s trying to bring a carbon tax like the one in British Columbia to Washington. The tax would be applied on carbon per ton. Starting at 25 dollars per ton, it will move up every year to increase shift towards stopping carbon. The tax would be applied to Washington based companies like Microsoft and Boeing. Should the initiative pass, the long-term effects will reduce carbon emissions by Washington residents.

On a day to day basis, the tax will affect Washington residents by decreasing sales tax and increasing gas prices. Theoretically, these changes in price will balance out so that the expenditure of the average household on taxes remains the same.

Six Whitman students are currently working on passing the carbon tax by appealing to other Whitman students. In the near future they will try to expand into the greater Walla Walla community. Currently the polls show that support for the tax is split down the middle. CCC hopes they can sway the vote in their favor before the ballot in November.

“There are different ways of addressing a pollution problem and economists tend to favor those ways that would achieve an emissions reduction target in the lowest cost way and both cap and trade and emissions taxes would at least in theory achieve that objective,” Economics Professor Jan Crouter said.

The tax is directed at business rather than the individual.

“The companies that will be taxed will be able to pay these and it will help businesses adapt to reduce their carbon impact and therefore the cost of the tax that is put on them,” senior Margo Heffron said.

If the tax works as predicted, it will not disadvantage low income families in Washington state significantly. However, some low-income households that direct a high proportion of their income towards high carbon emissions goods and services could have increased difficulties.

“The details of the initiative attempt to make sure that certain households don’t face a loss because the effect of a carbon tax would be to raise the price of carbon intensive goods and services. So if that were the end of the story there would be a loss and there would have to be a presumable offset by the gain to society for reducing the impact,” Crouter said. “I would be most worried…for low income households who already devote a large percentage of their incomes to the purchase of goods and services …but the initiative attempts to address that.”

Because of details like that, the more Washington citizens know about i732, the more they tend to support it.

“A lot of people are opposed to a carbon tax in general but when people hear the specifics about how it actually works it’s a fairly sensible solution, ” Williams said.

While i732 may be an imperfect solution, it is better than no solution.

“This is one of the biggest solutions to fighting climate change as voters instead of waiting for a better solution in the next four years. It’s not the best solution, but it’s something that can put us in the right direction,” Heffron said.