Rep. Mary Dye: Cap and tax — a government ‘grand heist’ of your money
Since first taking office in 2013, Gov. Jay Inslee has had little success pushing his carbon reduction schemes. Conservatives have been able to fend off the legislation, citing the extreme expense and harm to the state's economy with little results to show for it. But this year may be different.
With a remote “virtual” session, in which lawmakers aren't next to each other in the same room, Democrats are emboldened to advance some very concerning bills, including a low-carbon fuel standard, all-electric energy requirements in growth management plans, and incorporating “environmental justice” into every new state agency policy.
The icing on this bureaucratic-bloated cake is the governor's cap and trade proposal, Senate Bill 5126. The so-called “Climate Commitment Act” is a 58-page measure that would enact a complicated cap and trade system in Washington. So complex, the bill summary is 24 pages, and so expensive, the fiscal note reads like a book at 113 pages long.
The bill would enact a limit (cap) on entities that emit carbon dioxide or produce and/or distribute fuel that emits carbon when combusted in vehicle engines. The trade is an auction of state-issued allowances, run by an independent contractor, to emit more carbon than the cap. The state Department of Ecology is granted broad authority to set the pricing and limits. Ecology will adjust the cap over multi-year compliance periods. The costs of those allowances would be passed to the consumer.
So far, “cap and tax” has never gained much traction in the Legislature. But now, the governor has the backing of a well-organized coalition of deep-pocketed, rich investors, with massive influential ties to the economy, the environment, and politics. They have launched a campaign, known as Clean & Prosperous Washington (cleanprosperouswa.com), in support of Senate Bill 5126.
It's an impressive and, admittedly, intimidating list of supporters that reads like a Who's Who of big names in energy, petroleum, banking, aluminum and steel, health care, timber, trade groups — it goes on and on.
Why do they support the governor's carbon pricing legislation? Because they can make millions from this scheme, taking advantage of what the governor calls “the new energy economy,” while appearing environmentally responsible. This complicated system of buying, selling, and investing in carbon allowances and offset credits in a monetized carbon market could make investors rich — and you pay.
To incentivize passage, Democrats have tied the billions of dollars the state could bring in from the allowance auctions to a transportation package. Unlike a gas tax that must be used for roads, this money could be used for electric vehicle infrastructure, electric ferries, or bike paths.
Supporters call it “the grand bargain” because this package of bills overcomes the environmentalists' resistance to a transportation package partly funded by gas taxes that is constitutionally required to go to roads. Environmentalists see building roads as enabling more global warming emissions. This bargain gives those activists who hate building roads a win on pricing carbon. It also provides money for a climate investment account to spend on projects climate activists will approve later.
Make no mistake. The grand bargain is state government's grandest heist. When producers must pay government for carbon allowances to operate, consumers will pay more for fuel, natural gas, heating fuel, electricity, goods, groceries, and items transported — and eventually all services. In all, it will raise nearly a billion dollars per biennium in taxes — in the form of auctioned emission allowances that you will pay. And get this — it will have little effect on reduction of worldwide global carbon emissions. It's NOT about a cleaner environment. It's about the money – YOUR money.
We are up against a Goliath coalition of influential supporters backing the governor's climate change agenda that will deeply impact the middle- and lower-income sectors across our state. We are fighting hard, but we need your help!
Call the toll-free Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and tell your legislators to oppose Senate Bill 5126. Washington citizens cannot afford a “grand bargain” that is truly the governor's grand heist of our state's economy and your money.
Editor's note: Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, is the ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee and represents the 9th Legislative District.