Setting the Record Straight on Washington’s Carbon Tax Initiative I-732

If Washington votes Yes on Initiative 732 in November, it will pass one of the strongest climate policies in the world, and the most progressive change to its deeply regressive tax system in 40 years. Some corporations and organizations, however, are spreading misinformation or misunderstandings about how the policy would work. This is an open letter correcting the misinformation and asking organizations to correct statements and published information that contains incorrect information about I-732.

In a nutshell, I-732 puts a gradually rising fee on carbon pollution which causes climate change. It then returns the revenue to Washingtonians by: reducing the sales tax for all of Washington; funding and expanding a tax rebate of up to $1,500 each for 460,000 low-income families; and reducing the tax burden on manufacturers to help them deal with the increased costs of pollution and stay competitive outside of our state. It’s a simple tax swap, about which much misinformation abounds.

Some are falsely claiming that I-732 won’t do much to address climate change, however, experts and advocates from across the state and country agree that a price on carbon pollution is one of the most effective and needed steps to reduce emissions. Independent non-partisan economic modelling shows that I-732 alone would take Washington a long way to meeting its emission reduction goals, and independent analysis by the highly respected Sightline Institute concluded that “I-732 would give Washington the continent’s, if not the world’s, most potent, persistent, and comprehensive incentive to move swiftly beyond dirty fossil fuels and to a carbon-free future.

The window left to avert the worst impacts of climate change is dangerously short, and we cannot afford to spread misinformation about carbon pricing — which is widely agreed to be one of the most effective ways to reduce emissions.

Some still claim I-732 is regressive and would harm the economy. However, I-732 would be the most progressive shift to the tax code in 40 years because it reduces the deeply regressive sales tax, and funds the Working Families Tax Rebate, “one of the most effective, if not the most effective, poverty-fighting tools around”. Plus, independent non-partisan economic modelling shows that just five years after adopting I-732, Washington would likely see a net increase of over 10,000 jobs, and grow its GDP by an additional $500 million — all the while having “minimal net impacts on the cost of living.”

Some claim that I-732 does not provide net benefits to communities of color and low income families. However, I-732 does reduce climate change, pollution, and regressive taxes, which all disproportionately harm low income families and communities of color, who will thus be among the biggest beneficiaries of I-732, as has been highlighted by some of 732’s supporters.

Another argument against I-732 claims that it would create a hole in the State budget. However, as independent analysis has shown, “I-732 is as close to revenue neutral as a reasonable forecast can determine”, and it might even turn out to be revenue positive. Even if it did reduce state government revenue by 0.66% as arguably incorrect estimates suggest, that revenue is well used as it goes predominantly to reducing the deeply regressive sales tax, and funding and expanding the unfunded Working Families Tax Rebate.

While I-732, like all initiatives, does not fix all of our State’s problems, it would do a lot of good for the State. As a thorough independent analysis by Sightline concluded: “the policy’s flaws are cause for concern but are dwarfed by I-732’s potential benefits”. Importantly, spreading misinformation about I-732 not only undermines its ability to pass, but also the long-term ability to work together on addressing some of the important issues it addresses.

We can respect that groups may have differing ideas and approaches on this issue, and that I-732 alone does not do everything needed to address climate justice. However, we erode much needed public trust and momentum on important issues of tax fairness, equity, and climate change by spreading incorrect information about them. Thus, even if some organizations choose not to support I-732, we respectfully request that at least they do not misinform citizens about policy measures which can help to fight climate change, reduce pollution, fight poverty, help fix a regressive tax system, and promote a clean energy economy in Washington, all of which I-732 does.

Signatories,*

Brian Anderson, Climate Action Bainbridge Chairperson

Ed Chadd, Olympic Climate Action, Port Angeles

David M. Chapin, Ph.D, Chair, Climate Action Ministry, East Shore Unitarian Church

Professor Joe Cook, University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy and Governance

Anne Engstrom, Citizens Climate Lobby Seattle, Chapter Leader

Richard Gammon, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry University of Washington, Professor of Oceanography, Adjunct Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Former IPCC co-author.

Professor Haideh Salehi-Esfahani, University of Washington Economics Department

Alexandre Lenferna, Fulbright Scholar; Divest UW & Gates Foundation Fossil Fuel Divestment, Co-Leader

Mary Manous, JD, MPA, LLM, founder — Cascadia Climate Action; member — Sierra Club Beyond Coal and Oil Task Force; member — Citizens Climate Lobby; former board/hub member — 350Seattle;

Marilyn Mayers — East Shore Unitarian Church, Board Member; Climate Action Ministry, Member.

William McPherson, President, Unitarian-Universalist Voices for Justice of Washington State

Court Olson, Green Building Professional, Climate Activist with Sierra Club, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, Carbon WA & 350 Seattle.

Jason Purascal, East Shore Unitarian Church, the Innocence Project Northwest, and ZILA Works

Andrew Saturn, Our Revolution Washington

Michael Soman, MD, MPH, Retired Past President, Group Health Physicians

Isa Werny, Sierra Club Member, member of the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Judy Wu, University of Washington

*Affiliations listed for identification purposes only. Individuals listed are speaking only for themselves and not for their affiliated agency.