Walks like a tax, sounds like a tax

Guest Commentary

I was tired of shoveling snow the other day and needed some comic relief, so I decided to read the most recent newsletters sent out by my state representative.

Finding out what is happening at our state capitol is challenging. I usually start with the newsletters, then Google for more details. If you don’t get these newsletters, you should. Your representative’s office will gladly add you to their email list. Then you, too, will have something to break up the monotony of late winter.

As our governor has been reborn as the climate-change candidate among the growing group of presidential hopefuls, it came as no surprise to find that much of this session’s legislation involves the environment. I noted the Legislature recently passed a bill that is supposed to make our electricity carbon free by 2025. This bill was supported by many of the same activists who want to breach the Snake River Dams. Apparently, there is no requirement for activists to be logical.

The governor’s latest attempt to impose an income tax on unwilling voters is to start with a tax on capital gains. He claims this tax will help save the Orcas. I get lost in his logic.

My wife called me to take out the trash just as I began to read something about a carbon tax.What! They can’t do that! The Legislature can’t pass a new tax without a vote of the people. The state constitution contains that provision to keep legislators from running amuck.

The idea for a special additional tax on fuel was originally called “Cap and Trade.” It was repeatedly rejected by the voters 10 years ago. It was reborn as the Carbon Tax Initiative and overwhelmingly defeated by the voters in 2016 and again last year. I thought the issue was dead and buried, so I hurried back from the trash dumpster to learn the details.

As I reread my representative’s newsletter, I discovered it didn’t say “tax.” The original concept has been resurrected and renamed “Minimum Carbon Emissions Standard.” I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I looked it up. Apparently, our west side legislators want to imitate California’s program designed to promote biofuels, even though studies have shown production of biofuels requires more fuel than we get in return.

I’m not sure why anyone would want to emulate California’s environmental program. After several years of the strictest emission standards in the world, California retains our nation’s worst air quality. According to the American Lung Association, California has the most polluted cities in the country. Oh, by the way, they also pay the most for gas. Their program is both expensive and ineffective.

Ignoring the will of the voters, our Legislature enacted the new Minimum Carbon Emissions Standard to become effective in 2021. At that time, the price of your electricity will go up. The price of transportation for goods and services will increase. Gasoline prices will be 17 cents per gallon more than they are now.

Liberal state lawmakers will claim they took a big step toward making the world a greener place. The governor will be able to declare victory over the voters. He blamed the voters for the increase in carbon emissions after his carbon tax initiatives were defeated in 2016 and 2018.

In summary, this “standard” will cost the taxpayers essentially the same as the rejected carbon “tax” and the environment will remain much the same as it was before.

I don’t think Washington voters want polluted air. They do, however, want a program that works. The Minimum Carbon Emissions Standard isn’t it. It is an arrogant end run around the will of the voters.

I am angry. We should all be angry. Our representatives are supposed to represent us, not their own special interests.

Frank Watson is a retired Air Force Colonel and long-time resident of Eastern Washington. He has been a free-lance columnist for over 19 years.


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