Monday, October 15, 2018

My unique thoughts after reading climatologist Cliff Mass's recent critique of Washington State I-1631

Looks like Washington State's popular climatologist, Cliff Mass, is critical of Washington State's latest attempt to tax carbon emissions; I-1631. I still favor the bill, tho it has its blemishes. I guess he feels that a better carbon tax bill could be crafted.

I-1631's organizers created a very complex bill based on community input. It has a lot of payoffs to various special interest groups; such as Native American Tribes, labor groups and so forth.

Could it be that the laundry list of left leaning groups creates such a gauntlet, for any bill to get through, that the bill ends up just creating another morass? On Cliff's blog there is a picture of hogs at the trough. I would guess that right wing leaning groups create similar gauntlets for proposals to get past.

I still think of myself as leaning left, but I do see a problem of all the special interests, each wanting their share of the action. The "big picture solution" seems to always get clouded.

Yes, there are, conceivably, many simpler solutions than I-1631. Two years ago, there was a simpler solution that didn't pass the popular vote. It would have imposed a carbon tax and then, basically, give money back to the taxpayers in the form of sales tax relief. That bill didn't have much support from the various interest groups that this bill has attempted to bring on board. Maybe that's why it didn't pass.

Cliff praised that bill for its simplicity, but at the same time he is criticizing this bill for not doing enough to focus the spending side of the bill on things that would really make a big dent in climate change. Such things as putting lots of money into speeding up the build out of light rail transit. He suggests some other big ticket proposals as well; like thinning out some of the dead wood in our forests to make them less fire prone. Another suggestion is to build more water storage capacity for the irrigation in areas like the Yakima Valley to help them cope with the expected decline in snow pack storage.

A simpler bill could do that. It wouldn't be like the bill that was on the ballot two years ago, however. That wouldn't have boosted light rail, or these other ideas, that much as it would have been giving the money back to taxpayers in the form of sales tax relief. It was considered "revenue neutral."

Personally, I'd propose a simpler idea as well. It would, basically, tax all fossil fuels at the pump; so to speak. Yes, it would cost consumers more. Then, if we really want to focus the revenue on things that reduce global warming, it would be like forcing the car drivers to pay higher taxes to support things like light rail. I'd say bike paths also, of course. You folks know me. I'm into bicycling.

My idea wouldn't make it through the gauntlet of public process for sure. My idea would be kind of regressive also, but maybe we can't use the carbon tax to solve income inequality. We need another tax for that, like an income tax.

Still, I support I-1631 as a start as we can modify it as we go along, hopefully.

If we could think outside automobiles, a tax on car drivers could be less regressive if it really did bring on a lot more alternative transit. In the long run, alternative transit is less expensive than driving. Still, most people are waiting for driving to be fueled with alternative fuels instead.

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