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

A young girl holds up a ‘Don’t Pollute I Live Here’ sign in the crowd during the Youth Climate Strike at Cal Anderson Park on Friday, March 15, 2019 in Seattle, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
King County builds blueprint for health, climate change

The plan will inform how the Board of Health addresses climate change-related health issues.

July’s Monroe earthquake is informing plans for future danger

Gathered by lucky accident, data from the 4.6-magnitude quake could help assess bigger hazards.

Political activist Tim Eyman campaigns for Initiative 976 on Nov. 5 in downtown Bellevue. The initiative promised $30 car tabs while functionally eliminating the ability of agencies like Sound Transit to raise taxes for its projects. Photo by Aaron Kunkler
Election analysis: Eastside cities largely voted against I-976

Most Eastside cities weren’t swayed by I-976, though more voters approved it than the county average.

A new study argues that many luxury apartment units in Seattle are vacant, damaging the surrounding communities. (Screenshot on Google)
Luxury apartments: Who’s buying King County?

Wealthy investors jack up housing prices in Seattle and beyond.

West Point Treatment Plant report due in January

The report will look at ways to keep adequate power flowing to the plant after a July spill.

Flying Fish: Lake Sammamish kokanee move to Orcas Island

It’s part of a program to preserve the unique freshwater salmon species.

Malena Gaces, left, and other members of Washington CAN protest unfair move-out charges and alleged discriminatory behavior outside Kitts Corner Apartments in Federal Way in 2018. Sound Publishing file photo
King County could increase tenant protections

The council is considering ordinances designed to help renters.

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
The smoky summer that wasn’t

While Washington had a mild season, wildfires burned near the Arctic.

Dane Scarimbolo and Dominique Torgerson run Four Horsemen Brewery in Kent. They were almost shut down in late 2017 by King County, which after years of letting them operate a brewery and taproom, decided they were in violation of county code. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Proposed winery ordinance irks King County farmers, neighbors and businesses

Concerns include more traffic, higher land prices, code enforcement and compliance.

Several roads in King County, including the Snoqualmie Parkway, were closed when a brief snow storm struck the region last February. File photo
More roads in King County could be plowed during winter storms

Proposal targets 70 more miles in unincorporated areas.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Kim Schrier held a roundtable at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank on Oct. 3 to talk about the Trump administration’s plan to further change SNAP food benefits rules and reduce the number of people using them. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Murray, Schrier vow to fight White House restrictions on food stamps

Senator and Representative met Oct. 3 at Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.

King County is not on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions goals, but emissions also have not been rising with population growth. File photo
King County isn’t on track to meet emissions goals

The goals were ambitious but progress has been slow.