I-1631 is virtually an entire book of blank checks for political appointees to spend as they choose.

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If you were asked to raise your own taxes indefinitely for something in return, wouldn’t you expect some assurances about what’s actually supposed to happen?

That’s the flawed premise behind Initiative 1631, the carbon tax proposal: Approve a perpetually increasing tax on the promise of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with no guarantee of meeting that goal, and no public accountability for how billions in taxes would be spent to achieve it.

Initiative 1631 is many things, but it is not the climate solution proponents make it out to be.

In reality, I-1631 is a flawed, unfair energy tax that would force Washington families, small businesses and consumers to pay billions more in taxes for gasoline, home heating costs, electricity, natural gas and pretty much anything else that requires energy to be manufactured or shipped here in Washington. Every trip to work, every package ordered online and every tick of the thermostat means you pay more.

How does it work? As proposed, Initiative 1631 would impose a $15 “fee” per ton on certain carbon emissions beginning in 2020. The fee would increase by $2 each year plus inflation, quadrupling within 15 years, with no limit on how high it could go. A state analysis shows that 1631 would increase energy taxes by $2.3 billion in the first five years alone. In addition, I-1631 would add hundreds of millions of dollars to ratepayers’ energy bills for higher costs for utilities. And I-1631’s taxes would continue to automatically increase every year — indefinitely, with no set cap.

The financial burden of I-1631 would fall squarely and disproportionately on individuals, families, farmers and small businesses. We know this because independent studies have estimated that 1631 would increase the cost of gasoline by 12 to 14 cents per gallon in the first year alone, increasing annually with no cap, quickly adding up to 60 cents more per gallon within 15 years. Initiative proponents exempted many of the state’s largest polluters from the initiative’s costs, including a coal-fired power plant through 2025, as well as other large emitters. And more exemptions can be added at any time. As a result, large corporations and many polluters would be protected, while individuals, families, small businesses and farmers would pay billions more for gasoline, natural gas, heating fuel, electricity and transportation costs.

At its core, I-1631 is a regressive tax that hits hardest those who can least afford it, including low-income and fixed-income households, seniors and working families. An analysis by the Washington Policy Center estimates an average household would pay between $234 and $305 in the first year alone, rising to between $672 and $877 a year after 10 years, with the largest portion of the cost coming from a higher gas tax.

But what’s perhaps more troubling about I-1631 is the glaring lack of accountability to voters and its disincentive to meet the initiative’s stated goals.

I-1631 would create an unelected board of political appointees, with no accountability to voters, that would have broad authority to spend billions in taxpayer dollars, no specific plan and no requirements that all the money be spent specifically to reduce greenhouse gases.

I-1631 is virtually an entire book of blank checks for political appointees to spend as they choose.

Finally, there are no consequences under I-1631 if it fails to deliver its greenhouse gas reduction goals — and ironically, the measure rewards failure by increasing the fees, and the taxpayer dollars collected, for every year the proposed goals are not met.

Washington state is already a leader in environmental policy, and we should continue to pursue policies and incentives that will continue to improve our environmental record. Initiative 1631 is not such a measure. It is costly and poorly written, undermining other ongoing efforts to achieve environmental goals. We need serious, sensible and accountable solutions that address our environmental challenges effectively and responsibly. I-1631 is not a viable solution.

For these reasons, this fall we urge a no vote on 1631.