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 An effort to implement a carbon tax in Washington State has picked up steam with proponents of Ballot Initiative 1631 submitting more than 350,000 signatures to the Secretary of State. The Initiative would create a massive new energy tax, far larger than the one rejected by voters in 2016.

A first in the nation $15 per ton tax on select carbon emitters (rising by $2/ton each annually) would be imposed if Initiative 1631 was approved this November. This regressive tax, misleadingly labeled as a “fee,” will raise gas prices, with a punitive effect on low-income households in the Evergreen State.

A similar initiative, 732, was included on the November 2016 ballot, but failed with 59.25% of voters rejecting such a carbon tax.  Since 2016, proponents of the carbon tax have changed the language to a carbon fee, an effort proponents hope will trick voters into thinking that it is only imposed on a very selective and warranted basis.

The ballot text of 1631 defines this tax as a pollution fee for “invest[ing] in clean air, clean energy, clean water, healthy forests, and healthy communities by imposing a fee on large emitters based on their pollution…” The billions of dollars collected through Initiative 1631 fall under the discretion of the state’s Secretary of Treasury for a pollution fund. 

 In addition to Initiative 732, Washington Senate bill 6203 pushed for similar measures, but the bill was sent to committee and died during the 2018 legislative session. 

This carbon tax will affect households and businesses through higher prices for electricity, heating, and gas at the pumps.  Estimates suggest that this carbon tax will triple current electricity bills in ten years. In one year, Washingtonians will pay $125 more at the pump.  Residents in Washington will pay varying amounts for home heating, from $35-$42 more per year.  Overall, residents of Washington will pay over $500 in total more for energy over the next decade.

This tax will directly affect the working families in Washington, push businesses out of the state, and burden families with higher energy costs each year.  Initiative 1631 deserves the same treatment by voters like initiatives and bills before it, as it serves the same purpose, to tax carbon emissions and pass the cost to consumers in Washington.