A Carbon Tax Makes Sense

For our environment, our economy and our state's budget.

April 4, 2017

Kyle Murphy and Dave Kozin


Theres a growing bipartisan consensus that a carbon tax just makes sense. A group of national Republican leaders with the Climate Leadership Council, including James Baker and Hank Paulson, recently released a climate plan advocating for a carbon tax. Initiative 732, a carbon tax plan that went to Washington voters on last year’s ballot, was endorsed by many leaders from both political parties. Recently, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a broad coalition of Washington state social justice, environmental and labor organizations, put forward a climate plan that includes a carbon tax. The Legislature should borrow the best ideas from all of these policies and focus on three key areas:

1. Including protections for the business community, especially trade exposed businesses, and access to support in making the transition to clean energy.

2. Including a broad benefit that helps people across the state, such as reducing existing taxes or funding a service that everyone benefits from.

3. Making sure low-income communities have access to financial support and improved health outcomes as a result of a carbon policy.

Right now, the Legislature is looking at ways to reform our tax code and fund vital services, including a new capital gains tax, property tax reform and B&O tax reform. As we look at ways to fund our government and make our tax code smarter, it would be wise to include a carbon tax if we want better economic, health, and environmental outcomes.

Climate change isnt going away anytime soon, and neither is the desire to see comprehensive statewide policy addressing it. If the Legislature doesnt take action on climate change, another citizen initiative will surely be put before voters. We think we will all be better off if legislators from both sides of the aisle come together to adopt a carbon tax this session, and show the other Washington that climate policy can support economic growth and a better way of life.

In Washington state, a healthy environment and a vibrant economy go hand in hand. Our natural beauty attracts top talent and nourishes our recreation economy, while our abundance of clean, cheap electricity, benefits world class industries. While Washington D.C. is cutting back many of our nations environmental programs, Washington State can show the nation a better path forward. A carbon tax is the centerpiece of a pro-growth, pro-environment, bipartisan climate policy and we believe our state should implement one.

Right now, we don’t require major carbon emitters to account for pollution in their products, which amounts to a tremendous subsidy for the fossil fuel industry. At a time when the clean energy economy is booming, this is holding our economy and our environment back. A price signal within the free market that accounts for carbon will reduce the need for policy makers to pick winners and losers or rely on complex regulations. Giving fossil fuels a free pass on pollution isnt just bad economic policy, its bad environmental policy. Try talking to someone from a community next to a refinery or coal plant, where asthma rates are much higher than elsewhere, or a shellfish farmer concerned about losing their livelihood to ocean acidification, and you will see how important it is that we accelerate our transition to clean energy.

With the scientific evidence mounting that climate change poses a threat to future generations, this is the right thing to do. Luckily, we arent the only ones who think so.

KYLE MURPHY is executive director of Carbon Washington, a statewide organization dedicated to effective, equitable climate policy. Carbon Washington was the primary backer of Initiative 732. DAVE KOZIN is CFO of A&R Solar, a growing B-corporation specializing in residential and commercial solar installation. He is a founding member of the Solar Installers of Washington and past president of Solar Washington.