In 2015, thousands of volunteers spent most of the year gathering a total of 262,940 signatures from all over Washington State to qualify I-732, the carbon tax initiative, for the 2016 ballot. This was a testament to the effective grassroots campaign that Carbon WA ran almost entirely with unpaid volunteers. Many of you were probably approached by one or more of the enthusiastic members of the tiny San Juans Chapter which collected 2% of those signatures – over 5,000 names gathered by talking to friends and neighbors, ferry travelers, shoppers at farmers markets and stores on their island, and Washingtonians at summer music festivals and the Shell No action down in Seattle.
Kyle Murphy, Carbon WA campaign co-director, will be at Lopez’ Sunnyfield Farm on Saturday, April 16th at 1:00 p.m. to answer questions about I-732 and discuss the strategy leading up to the November ballot.
I-732 seeks to make taxes more fair and promote cleaner energy with four steps. First, it shifts the tax burden at $25 per ton onto large scale users of fossil fuels like refineries, coal plants, and utilities. Since renewables like hydro, wind, and solar are carbon-free and would pay no tax, this will help make clean energy even more appealing than it is today.
Second, the money collected from these polluters would fund a 1% reduction in the state sales tax, saving hundreds of dollars per year for an average Washington household. As prices go up at the gas pump or on your electric bill, your other purchases would come down with the decrease in the sales tax, making this initiative revenue-neutral for middle income citizens.
Third, a tax rebate for working families would provide a credit for up to $1,500 a year for 400,000 low income households. By funding Washington’s Working Families Tax Rebate, I-732 takes a crucial first step in reducing taxes for people not earning enough to cover basic needs. Many working families in the bottom 20% income bracket will pay less than half the taxes they do now.
And lastly, by effectively eliminating the Business and Occupation tax on manufacturing, living-wage jobs would be retained here in Washington. I-732 proposes to keep the state’s economy strong while bringing relief from the regressive taxes that hurt families and businesses. Since 2008, a similar approach has brought carbon emissions down as much as 16% in British Columbia where the economy is doing as well if not better than the rest of Canada. Economists agree that putting a solid price on carbon is the best way to reduce fossil fuel use and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
All of us have experienced the effects of climate change firsthand. Here in the Northwest it has been relatively mild compared to the superstorms, extreme drought, more frequent wildfires, and sea level rise that have battered other locations all over the globe. Climate action can’t wait. I-732 tackles this critical issue by lowering taxes on things we want more of (like jobs and purchasing power) and raising them on things we want less of (carbon emissions). And we get the additional benefits of cleaner, healthier air and a safer world.
So, how do we get this ballot initiative passed in November? Join Kyle Murphy for the April 16th workshop, 1:00 p.m. at 6363 Fisherman Bay Road to find out how the San Juan Islands can do their part in making Washington the first state in the nation to enact a tax on carbon. And come early to enjoy the last Little Spring Market in the Sunnyfield Barn!