The Path to Fair and Equitable Carbon Pricing

This morning, as I was eating my breakfast, I was thinking about global warming and carbon taxes as I usually do. We had some important progress done this year, and we can use the momentum we have gotten from this next year to pass significant legislation in 2020 in the Washington State Legislature.

Brief history of the climate fight in Washington State:

  • 2014: A group of young activists, mostly in college, get an initiative to the legislature passed, jump starting the climate fight here in Washington State.
  • 2015: The same group of activists (myself included) successfully gathered enough signatures to file Initiative 732, a progressive, exemption-free carbon tax whose proceeds would go back to tax payers to alleviate the most regressive tax code in the United States of America. Remember that income inequality was the big issue everyone was talking about in 2015. A large number of self-declared environmental groups break off at this point, saying we were doing it wrong, without giving specifics on what they would do differently.
  • 2016: We work hard on trying to get Initiative 732 on the ballot, a number of self-declared environmental groups, newspapers, and Governor Inslee slander the bill by misrepresenting what it would actually do, and the only exemption free carbon tax proposal in American history to date was defeated.
  • 2017: Governor Inslee proposes his counter proposal. The big difference is that he has exemptions for every industry from coal to natural gas to oil refineries, and is a much lower tax. After it is defeated the Alliance finally proposes their bill, which is very similar to Governor Inslee’s bill in terms of who benefits.
  • 2018: The Alliance’s initiative is defeated. It neither succeeded to get big oil companies to reduce their opposition at the end through massive government handouts to them, and its lower rate combined with massive tax breaks to multinational fossil fuel producing companies, many of whom are also Fortune 500 corporations, fails to get enough environmental activists involved in order to pass.
  • 2019: The 100% clean electricity bill is signed into law by Governor Inslee, along with several other exemption-free bills to mitigate global warming.

Here is where we are today, and in 2020 we have the biggest opportunity in a decade to pass major legislation. This is the time to fight for a proper exemption-free carbon tax. In the 60 day session we have 6 days per step, with 5 steps to get through each chamber. I believe several factors of our current situation make 2020 the year to get it done:

  • The media was misleading about initiative 732, so people didn’t understand what they were voting on, and we simply didn’t have the manpower to correct what the Seattle Times, etc. were saying about it.
  • More and more Americans are saying they are concerned about global warming. We have successfully moved the Overton Window.
  • We are at a point in history where Carbon Washington has more political capital than ever before. We have thousands of members, and this is the time when we have the opportunity to use it. We must use it.
  • Every single piece of climate policy which has passed has not had line by line exemptions like 1631 did. If we propose another bill without those line by line exemptions we can win.
  • Governor Inslee has announced Global Warming as his main issue. We can use this to our advantage by proposing a truly progressive carbon tax like 732 in the legislature last year. If he supports it, he looks like a flip flopper because he fought against us in 2016, if he opposes it, he looks like he isn’t actually serious about global warming, and a liar. He MUST support this bill, since being a flip flopper is better than being a liar, and he must actively fight for it if he is to have any chance of winning the Presidency. We MUST use this to our advantage.
  • If the Alliance fights against our exemption free proposal, than they will lose support among their members. If they support it, they look like flip floppers. For the same reason as Governor Inslee, they MUST support this bill or stop existing. They are doomed no matter what because of their behavior over the last 5 years. They should go out better than they came in. It’s up to them.

With majority support, and the fact that Governor Inslee and the Alliance have simply no choice but to support a good carbon tax bill we at Carbon Washington can propose through some of our supporters, likely Debra Lekanoff, Sharon Shewmake, Beth Doglio, and Joe Fitzgibbon, hopefully with one or two Republicans as well, I truly believe that we can pass a real carbon tax bill this upcoming legislative session. The Alliance and Governor Inslee have no option but to support it, and we will then have the phone banking power to pressure the chairs of the committees it will go through to get a hearing and a vote. If we get a few groups in the Alliance to phone bank their supporters as well, we will have even more supporters calling legislators, which helps significantly. It is also unlikely that 2021 will have better numbers in the legislature for climate action, so I believe this is the best shot we are going to have for a while.

The political action steps are simple really, and continuing what we have done before:

  • June 2019: Start canvassing legislators, getting their support for a bill in the next session and getting their opinions.
  • November 2019: Have a solid proposal with as many legislators giving verbal support for it as possible, with a final draft finished by the end of the month:
  • January 2020: Two companion bill are proposed, one in each house, with as many cosponsors as we can muster.
  • Day 6: Get it to a committee vote:
  • Day 12: Get it to Ways and Means.
  • Day 18: Get it to the Rules committee:
  • Day 24: Passed out of committee.
  • Day 30: Passed second house
  • Day 36: Committee vote
  • Day 42: Ways and Means
  • Day 48: Rules Committee
  • Day 54: Passed second house
  • Soon after Day 54: Governor Inslee signs the first exemption free carbon tax in American History into law.

Since Trump will likely lose next year, given that he lost the House last November, and that we will not have a Governor who has announced climate change as his number one priority for his Presidential run after the 2020 election, the number of legislators who support acting on climate will likely go down after the next election, and more and more Americans are concerned about global warming than ever before, 2020 is going to be the best year to pass an exemption free carbon tax in the foreseeable future.

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