I-1631 costs too much, does too little for climate change

By Vicki Malloy
Guest columnist

Vicki Malloy (Provided photo)

Ballots have arrived in the mail and voters now have to decide on matters like Initiative 1631, the energy tax initiative.

You may be feeling the urge to “do something” for the environment. After all, we live in one of the most beautiful places in Washington state. But the research into I-1631 shows it would cost farmers, families and small businesses a lot of money — $30 billion over 15 years — for very little climate change.

According to the ballot language, I-1631 would impose a $15 per ton fee on certain carbon emissions beginning in 2020. The fee would increase by $2 each year plus inflation — quadrupling within 15 years — with no limit on high it could go.

The measure also exempts many large polluters from the tax, forcing farmers, small businesses and consumers to pay more — more for home heating, for transportation fuels, for food, etc.

The proposal then sets up a 15-member board of unelected political appointees representing special interest groups, who are allowed to spend the taxes generated by this measure any way they wish. There is no specific spending plan articulated in the ballot measure — it is up to the board how they choose to spend the revenue generated under I-1631.

All of this is created to help the state reduce its greenhouse gas emissions over the next 15 years. If it fails to meet those goals, there is no penalty and the taxes continue on indefinitely.

The YES side has spent this fall avoiding talks about costs or specifics about how the money would be used. According to the state budget office, Initiative 1631 would increase energy taxes by $2.3 billion in the first five years alone. State analysts say I-1631 would add hundreds of millions of dollars to ratepayers’ energy bills for higher costs for utilities. And under I-1631, taxes would continue to automatically increase every year — indefinitely, with no set cap, and no further voter approval needed.

And an independent study by NERA Economic Consulting predicts similar cost increases, but also dug into the emissions impacts of 1631. According NERA, I-1631 would raise $30 billion in taxes over the next 15 years. In 2020, the first year of the measure, researchers say I-1631 would result in an additional cost of $440 for the average Washington household. It would jump to nearly $1,000 per household 15 years later in 2035.

The NERA study says these additional costs will have consequences. The study anticipates a loss of income to workers equivalent to 9,000 jobs in 2020, rising to 21,000 jobs in 2035. Eighty percent of these jobs would come from the sectors not exempted under the measure. This includes jobs in the hospitality, health care, retail and service industries. And these figures already factor in any green jobs the initiative would create in the clean energy sector.

Finally, the study looked at impacts on emissions: Will all these added costs actually impact climate change?

In a word: No. After 15 years and $30 billion in new taxes, the NERA study found the state would not reach its goal and would leave 93 percent of greenhouse gas emissions untouched.

Families in NCW already pay more: We drive farther and have fewer mass transit options. Our winters are colder, so heating costs matter. And we care deeply for our natural environment, one of the benefits of living in the heart of the Cascades. So I-1631 would cost us more, cost jobs, weaken the economy and increase costs to all consumers while leaving in place a tax set to continue indefinitely.

But it wouldn’t really change carbon emissions in Washington.

For these reasons, I am voting NO on I-1631, and urge you to do the same.

 

Vicki Malloy and her husband Harry are owner/operators of Harry’s Cherries Orchard in Malaga. She serves on the Chelan/Douglas Farm Bureau, and has held leadership roles in both the Washington Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau in Washington, D.C.