As Washington’s legislative leaders look for more money for the state’s schools, Gov. Jay Inslee has an idea.
He wants to tax carbon as a way to stop climate change and use some of the added revenue to pay for irrigation projects as a way to convince rural legislators to support the tax.
The problem: Inslee’s carbon tax does neither. He has offered no indication of whether, or how much, climate change would be impacted by his tax, which targets gasoline and other fuels. And the inclusion of money for irrigation projects has failed to convince rural Republicans to back the tax. It should also be noted that schools would still be underfunded.
The state Supreme Court has ordered the legislature to give more money to public schools — billions of dollars more. The court said that, under the state constitution, the legislature is required to adequately fund education for kindergarten through high school. The legislature, which is in charge of the state’s pocketbook, hasn’t yet figured out a way to do that.
Inslee, however, continues to beat the drum for a carbon tax despite the fact that the voters and the legislature have already rejected the idea, most recently in the November election, when Initiative 732 failed by an overwhelming 59 to 41 percent margin.
In its current form, the $25 per ton carbon tax on fuel would bring in $2 billion over the next two years. Buyers and sellers of fuel, including farmers and ranchers, would pay the tax, increasing their costs.
Organizations such as the Washington State Farm Bureau argue the tax would also force processors and suppliers to leave the state, and, ironically, create more carbon emissions because more of their products would have to be shipped farther to Washington customers.
Under Inslee’s tax plan, only half of the revenue would go toward schools, and the rest would be held out as carrots in the form of money for water projects, encouraging the use of electric cars, forest health and “clean” energy.
If Inslee wants to spend half the tax revenue to convince rural Republicans to pass his plan, he appears to have come up short.
Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, pointed out that Initiative 732 offered many tax breaks and other incentives to voters, but it was still soundly defeated.
“A sugar-coated version didn’t do very well,” he said of the carbon tax initiative, adding that he doubts Inslee’s latest version would gain any traction either.
Sen. Jim Honeyford, a Republican from the Yakima Valley, was more blunt in his assessment of the outlook for the carbon tax.
“I think the chances are slim and none, and slim just got on the bus to get out of town,” he said.