Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has been pushing hard to pass a carbon tax proposal. Though it’s been unpopular with some businesses and Republicans, on Tuesday he brought out an important ally.
Inslee invited former Secretary of State John Kerry to Olympia to lobby for his proposal. It would impose a tax of $10 per metric ton of carbon emissions from fossil fuel consumption. Kerry said Washington state lawmakers have an opportunity to lead the nation by pricing carbon in a way that is fair and sensible.
“And the way they’re looking at doing it is really helpful to rural Washington,” Kerry said. “It's helpful to those people who are economically challenged, who are at the lower end of the economic ladder and are struggling to get into the middle class because it actually sets aside help for those folks to be able to transition.”
The bill passed a Senate environmental committee earlier this month, but has yet to be passed out of the Senate. Kerry said he is confident lawmakers can come together.
“It’s always an element of compromise, always an element of trying to put together the best set of ideas for how you meet the future and I think they’re already very close to it, personally,” he said.
If the carbon tax is not enacted before the end of the legislative session, it will likely be on the November ballot. Democratic Sen. Guy Palumbo said businesses would prefer that lawmakers find a compromise.
“I think a lot of businesses see this as a thoughtful, better approach and they’ve been very helpful,” he said. “Now whether or not we get the votes and whether or not they can help us get those Republicans that we need on board is yet to be seen but they’re trying.”
The carbon tax proposal must make its way through the Ways and Means committee before being voted on by the Senate. If it passes the Senate, the bill still faces a battle in the House.
Inslee had originally proposed a $20 tax but the current proposal would gradually increase until capped at $30 dollars per metric ton. The revenue would fund environmental projects in the state. But how that money is spent–whether on forest, water or transportation infrastructure–is still up for debate.
House Environment Committee Chair Joe Fitzgibbon, D-Burien, said House Democrats are up to the challenge of passing it through the second chamber with bipartisan support.
“I think there are Republicans who recognize that the only way we will be able to fund the forest health and water infrastructure projects in rural Washington is with a carbon tax,” Fitzgibbon said. “And we will be listening to Republican members about their spending priorities within the bill.”
But Fitzgibbon added the future of the bill is unknown.
“I don't have a clear sense about whether the Senate will pass the bill,” he said.