Saturday, October 8, 2016

I support I 732

Last year as I was finishing my degree in political economy, I learned of a new initiative from Yoram Bauman to implement a carbon tax in Washington State, and immediately started to gather signatures during my summer in Olympia a few times. It is the first initiative I ever supported to this extent.

After studying economics for two years, I have learned that carbon taxes are the most efficient way to reduce carbon emissions. You get more revenue than you will from a cap and trade scheme, and when we compare British Columbia and California, two similar west coast regions with abundant sources for generating electricity in renewable ways, we see that one of them has implemented carbon taxes, and one a cap and trade. Both California and British Columbia saw a reduction in their carbon emissions both per capita and in total, since the implementation of these schemes, despite growing economies, and a nationwide trend in the US of increasing emissions.

When it comes to the efficiency of schemes however, economists know that carbon taxes are better for a couple key advantages 1. It is harder to give special deals to political benefactors, 2. It impacts everybody's emissions regardless of size, 3. It taxes every ton of carbon equally, and 4. it is easier to implement because you don't need yet another level of bureaucracy handing out permits. Carbon taxes and Cap and trade can be adjusted (assuming you don't have a policy like the ridiculous laws put in place by Tim Eyman here in Washington) to get the desired amount of carbon reduction, so at the end of the day either one can be used to get the desired amount of carbon reduction, as we see in the California vs. BC example.

When it comes to inequality, I 732 is the second best initiative we could have, only a state income tax could be more effective in addressing inequality. Washington State is the most regressive state in the country when it comes to our tax system because of our sales tax. This means that I 732 is going to put more money in the hands of young parents, children, college students, and minorities by reducing their tax rate by at least 1%. Sierra Club opposes the initiative saying it doesn't do enough, but they are opposing something good because it isn't as much as they want.

Here is the reality. I want an income tax in Washington State and to invest more into renewable energy. This is the reason why I support I 732. By increasing the price of carbon based fuel sources it will give a larger economic advantage to renewable energy which will help spur solar, geothermal, and other carbon neutral electricity sources in Washington State. We currently have one coal powered plant in the State, the TransAlta Plant in Centralia, which is responsible for 19% of Washington State's emissions by itself. Transportation is the biggest contributor to climate change in Washington State by far, accounting for 42% of our total emissions, and between a carbon tax and a cap and trade scheme, the carbon tax is the only one which I know will impact our largest source of emissions. By increasing the cost of carbon people will drive less.

The Carbon Tax is the first step to fixing our broken tax system. We need to replace our sales tax in full with an income tax. With the additional increase provided by a state income tax we can then invest in education, create tax credits for renewable energy, build our mass transit system faster, and shut down the TransAlta Plant in Centralia. We could even create a small universal basic income which would benefit poor families.

If Washington State passes the Carbon Tax it will make it easier to make further improvements to our tax system which will allow us to increase investment in infrastructure and education, both of which are severely lacking, and are critical the future quality of life of our state.

Vote yes on I 732 for a better Washington next month.

Extra sources
Washington State Emissions by source

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