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

Walkers rest amid the trees at Island Center Forest on Vashon Island, which is part of King County. Many trees around Western Washington are struggling, including Western hemlock on Vashon, likely from drought stress. Photo by Susie Fitzhugh
King County forests are facing new challenges

Hot, dry summers are stressing native tree species in Western Washington.

Washington State Capitol Building. Photo by Emma Epperly/WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Legislation targets rape kit backlog

WA has about 10,000 untested kits; new law would reduce testing time to 45 days

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Natural Resources/Kari Greer
Western Washington faces elevated wildfire risk in 2019

Humans cause majority of fires in state

Courtesy of kingcounty.gov
King County approves bargaining agreement with 60 unions

Employees will receive wage increases and $500 bonus.

File photo
Law enforcement oversight office seeks subpoena power

Organization has been unable to investigate King County Sheriff’s Office.

State smoking age rising to 21 in 2020

Legislature approves change

Defense Distributed’s 3D printed gun, The Liberator. Photo by Vvzvlad/Wikimedia Commons
‘Ghost gun’ bill moves to Senate committees

Legislation would make 3-D printed guns illegal.

Michelle Obama brings largest crowd of book tour to Tacoma Dome

Former First Lady and author of ‘Becoming’ spends afternoon with local book club prior to event.

A man addresses the King County Council during a public hearing March 20 at New Life Church in Renton. He presented bags filled with what he said was hazardous materials dropped on his property by bald eagles. Another speaker made similar claims. Haley Ausbun/staff photo
Locals show support for King County waste to energy plant

Public hearing on landfill’s future was held March 20 in Renton.

After being homeless, Christy X (pictured) moved into her Coniston Arms Apartments unit in Seattle at the beginning of 2019. She had bounced around from shelters to friends’ places after facing an eviction at her West Seattle apartment in October 2018. A diversion program run by the nonprofit Mary’s Place helped her find housing. File photo
State lawmakers consider eviction reform legislation

Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, is bill’s prime sponsor.

Gov. Jay Inlsee signs into law the Native American Voting Rights Act, which allows a non-traditional address to be used for voter registration for residents who live on reservations. Photo by Emma Epperly/WNPA Olympia News Bureau
Native American Voting Rights Act signed into law

Non-traditional addresses can be used for voter registration on tribal lands

The Cedar Hills Regional Landfill is the only active landfill in King County. It will operate until at least 2028. It has been in operation since the 1960s. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Waste study puts numbers behind King County trash alternatives

County has one remaining landfill located near Maple Valley, and it’s nearing capacity