Sustainability think tank concludes I-732 is “a worthy policy to put Washington on a path to cutting pollution and encouraging clean energy while also helping low-income families by making Washington State taxes less regressive” and that criticism about revenue-neutrality “is a red herring”
Seattle – August 2, 2016 – Sightline Institute (http://www.sightline.org/), a widely respected sustainability think tank, launched a series of research papers designed to offer Washington voters an “impartial and informed” analysis of Initiative 732 (http://yeson732.org/), the first-ever citizen ballot initiative to put a price on carbon anywhere in the United States.
The first paper — Weighing CarbonWA’s Tax Swap Ballot Initiative: Washington climate hawks’ guide to the pros and cons of I-732 — states, “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 second paper — Does I-732 Really Have A “Budget Hole”?: To the digit that anyone can accurately forecast, the tax swap is revenue-neutral — examines the question of revenue-neutrality and concludes that “the tax swap is revenue-neutral.”
The third paper — Weighing The Critiques Of CarbonWA’s I-732: Three points of contention in Washington’s fight for a carbon-free future — evaluates the arguments against I-732 and finds, “the policy’s flaws are … dwarfed by I-732’s potential benefits.”
The Sightline analysis comes on the heels of Audubon Washington’s endorsement of I-732, which describes the policy as “swift and effective action to reduce carbon pollution and help mitigate the impacts of climate change.”
Additional key findings:
Weighing CarbonWA’s Tax Swap Ballot Initiative, published August 1, 2016:
- The I-732 price on carbon emissions “will put wind in the sails of Washington’s clean energy economy as nothing else possible. It will hasten the decline of coal; level the playing field for clean renewable energy; motivate companies to squeeze pollution out of their processes; encourage more convenient alternatives to driving alone and more efficient vehicles; concentrate urban growth in dense, walkable communities; and spur investment in clean business and technology innovations. The I-732 pollution price would amplify other clean energy policies and speed the Evergreen State toward a thriving clean energy economy.”
- “Charging for pollution and sending a check to everyone benefits low-income households the most, because even though lower-income people spend a greater share of their income on energy, they spend less money in gross terms on energy. Therefore, they pocket more of the dividend check than do higher-income households who spend more on energy.”
- “Initiative 732 does exactly what the scientists and economists prescribe: it sets a science-based, steadily rising price on pollution. The citizens’ initiative covers most of the state’s climate pollution, makes the tax code more progressive, and is administratively elegant.”
Does I-732 Really Have a “Budget Hole”?, published August 2, 2016:
- “So the main answer to the question of whether I-732 is revenue neutral is, to the degree that any short-and-simple initiative can balance tax cuts and a carbon pollution tax over decades, yes. It’s revenue neutral. Even by the Department’s estimate, it’s within 1 percent of neutrality in the near term. By Sightline’s estimate, it’s within 0.37 percent. And as time goes on, the legislature could honor the will of voters to keep it neutral.”
- “As an argument against I-732, therefore, the “revenue hole” case is a red herring. I-732 has weaknesses, but this isn’t one of them.”
- “Even if the Department’s estimates are correct, I-732 will still be a rounding error, decreasing state tax revenue by less than 1 percent.”
Weighing the Critiques of CarbonWA’s I-732, published August 3, 2016:
- “We find the cap vs. tax argument to be a distraction. I-732’s price is high and rising. It is the best in its class, possibly worldwide.”
- “By an economic definition of equity, I-732 is a massive improvement over the status quo, aiding 460,000 working families.”
- “We reject the critique that I-732 is ineffective because it doesn’t invest in clean energy. I-732 would be the most effective carbon reduction policy in North America, maybe in the world, because it would be the highest and most reliably rising price.”
- “I-732 would launch Washington to a position of global leadership on climate action. By implementing a pollution price, rising steadily for four decades and keeping pace with inflation thereafter, I-732 would reorient Washington’s economy away from fossil fuels and toward low-carbon options. The price would be simple to administer and would cover most of the state’s pollution. By reducing Washington’s regressive state sales tax and funding tax credits for working families, I-732 would make the state tax code more progressive.”
“We appreciate the objective research Sightline brings to the discussion about I-732,” said Yoram Bauman, founder and co-chair of Yes on I-732. “These papers are an important part of ensuring voters are educated about I-732 and why it is a critical step forward in the fight against climate change. This November we have an unprecedented opportunity to begin curbing the devastating effects of climate change by voting yes on a policy that reduces pollution, makes our tax code fairer and more sustainable, and positions our state to prosper in a low-carbon future.”
The revenue-neutral tax swap proposed in I-732 is designed to move the state toward two goals – cleaner energy and fairer taxes. It was inspired by the revenue-neutral carbon tax implemented in British Columbia in 2008, and proposes the following policy changes:
- Tax pollution, not people. I-732 imposes a significant ($25/ton) tax on carbon emissions. This tax rises every year, to a maximum of $100/ton (in 2016 dollars) after 40 years. Adopting a strong price on carbon sends a signal to the nation that meaningful climate policy is achievable.
- Pay less at the cash register. I-732 will reduce the state sales tax by one percentage point, putting hundreds of dollars a year back into the pockets of each household in Washington.
- Fund an Earned Income Tax Credit for working families. I-732 funds the Working Families Tax Rebate to provide up to $1,500 a year for 460,000 low-income households. In fact, I-732 is the most progressive change to the Washington tax code since groceries were made sales tax exempt in 1977.
- Reduce the Business & Occupation tax on manufacturing. I-732 will keep living-wage jobs in Washington by effectively eliminating the Business and Occupation Tax on manufacturing.
About Carbon Washington
Carbon Washington is a non-partisan grassroots group of scientists, economists, former elected officials, business owners and concerned citizens focused on seeking a solution to climate change that works for businesses and households around the state. The group developed Initiative 732 as a revenue-neutral approach to tax carbon pollution while encouraging economic growth for families and businesses in Washington. To learn more about I-732, view endorsements from around the state, and get involved, visit YesOn732.org and follow on twitter @carbonwa.