I-732 would tax average Washingtonians at the gas pump, but it does nothing to address the need for better public-transit options or the climate-driven forest-health crisis in Eastern Washington and the resulting huge increase in carbon-emitting wildfires.
WASHINGTON needs a carbon policy that reduces the main causes of greenhouse-gas pollution and invests in the resiliency of our landscapes and communities from the impacts of climate change.
Initiative 732 would do neither while further impoverishing our cash-strapped state government, giving big business-tax breaks and creating the misleading impression that a viable climate-change policy has been enacted.
The passage of I-732 would thus be worse than the status quo for the environment, for our economy and for communities of all types across Washington.
If passed, I-732 would primarily benefit the businesses whose taxes are cut and climate deniers who wish to foster a false sense of complacency in the public and delay the implementation of a more aggressive, realistic carbon policy.
The science is clear: We cannot afford any more delays.
Sustaining the Washington way of life in the face of sweeping, extreme impacts of climate change will be an expensive, multifaceted effort. We will not only need to minimize greenhouse-gas emissions, but also maximize natural carbon sequestration and ensure that our communities and landscapes can withstand the coming changes.
Challenges that will need to be addressed include safeguarding communities threatened by sea level rise, protecting tribal nations’ ancestral homelands and treaty rights, investing in green energy and public transit, supporting workers in impacted industries, defending rural communities from increased wildfires, and mitigating the impacts to the fisheries, farms, forests and water sources that provide us with sustenance.
I-732 belittles this immense undertaking by offering an allegedly “revenue-neutral” proposal that does not provide any of the resources required to make a difference.
Since the state Department of Revenue estimates that I-732 would cut state tax collections by about $800 million over the next six years, a successful ballot initiative would actually reduce the resources available to state programs that support carbon sequestration and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
This huge loss to an already over-appropriated state budget originates in I-732’s decision to balance putting a price on carbon emissions and raising the cost of gasoline by essentially eliminating the B&O tax for manufacturers. This fiscally ruinous tax swap would puncture a hole in the state budget, starving environmental-protection programs in order to fund an unmerited tax break for companies like Boeing.
No wonder the backlash from Big Business against I-732 has been muted. By giving the already understaffed state government less resources, I-732 also gives polluters an excellent chance of avoiding, contesting or litigating the new assessments, further impoverishing the state.
This year, the state Department of Natural Resources identified the two biggest causes of carbon emission in Washington in 2015 as transportation (planes, trains and automobiles) and forest fires.
Though I-732 taxes average Washingtonians at the gas pump, it does nothing to address the need for better public-transit options and more environmentally sound vehicles. It also does nothing to address the largest impediment to Washington’s natural carbon sequestration and the second largest cause of its carbon emissions: the climate-driven forest-health crisis in Eastern Washington and the resulting huge increase in carbon-emitting wildfires.
An estimated 2.7 million acres of Washington forests are sick, dying or dead thanks to huge outbreaks of forest pests and pathogens, a problem exacerbated by climate change. These extremely flammable forests sequester less carbon and are easily ignited during the longer, hotter, dryer, stormier summers we have begun to experience, making 2014 and 2015 the two worst fire seasons in Washington history.
Efforts to develop public transit and restore healthy, fire-resistant, carbon-sequestering forests would likely lose funding in the state-budget crises, which I-732’s passage would exacerbate.
I-732 is definitely not the comprehensive, well-resourced climate-change policy Washington needs. Environmentalists should reject I-732 as a green-washed delay tactic that does more harm than good.