Why do Washington voters keep rejecting a carbon fee?

Nov 8, 2018, 5:43 AM | Updated: 5:50 am

This is the second time Washington voters have rejected some incarnation of a carbon fee, which would have been the first of its kind in the United States. It appears to be as unpopular here as it is everywhere else. The question is: Why?

“I think it reminds us that voters in Washington state are fiscally pretty conservative,” former Republican Attorney General of Washington Rob McKenna told Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross. “They have to be sophisticated enough to know that they should vote ‘No’ on the pollution fee, but vote ‘Yes’ to say ‘No’ to grocery taxes.”

Washington state’s latest carbon fee attempt did not pass with just 44 percent of early vote counts. Initiative 1631 proposed to place a $15 per metric ton fee on carbon emissions in Washington, starting in 2020. That fee would go up by $2 every following year. Revenue from the fee would be managed by a board and dedicated to environmental purposes.

Why McKenna supported the 2016 carbon fee, but not the 2018 version

“I supported the carbon fee back in 2016 because it was revenue neutral, it would have cut the sales tax, while increasing the cost of carbon to address climate change. I thought that was the way to go.”

This year, not so much. McKenna says he could not support this year’s carbon fee because it was not revenue neutral, and provided a large revenue increase to the state government that would have been controlled by an unelected board.

Check local election results

“Well, it turns out that it’s losing by the same margin as the straight up carbon tax, even though that had a tax cut built into it,” McKenna said. “So voters may be speaking pretty clearly here that they’re just not interested in going that direction.”

McKenna is not entirely opposed to a carbon tax, but believes that other taxes need to be reduced so it’s not simply a source of new tax revenue for the state.

“If you want less of it consumed, make it more expensive. But don’t penalize people. Any time you put a fee on a basic commodity, it is by nature a regressive tax. And I think that’s unacceptable unless it’s offset by a comparable reduction in another regressive tax, like the sales tax,” McKenna said. “It turns out voters don’t really care about those economic niceties; they’re going to vote ‘No’ either way. So I think this is probably done for awhile.”

“Nationally, this measure had a lot of people watching it from across the country, who hoped to pass similar carbon pricing measure there. Since it couldn’t pass in Washington, it might cause them to rethink it for other states as well,” he added.

RELATED: I-1631 carbon fee going up in smoke following early returns

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross

baby plane...

Dave Ross

Ross: Planes are noisy, so are babies; what’s the big deal?

The issue of airborne babies keeps coming up, and as far as I can tell, the reason it keeps coming up is that reporters find themselves near a baby on a plane

2 hours ago

retail theft...

Dave Ross

Ross: Seattle has a serious problem, not enough castles

I’m just back from a tour of Eastern Canada, and of course, when you visit other cities, you compare them with your own.

1 day ago

FILE - A view of the Shell oil company logo above a Shell fuel station in London, on May 5, 2022. S...

Dave Ross

Ross: How the gas tax could start paying you

A bill for the next legislative session that could rebate some of the revenue from the state’s carbon credit auctions to drivers

2 days ago

Dr. Bleich found you could discourage kids from buying soda if you post signs near the soda case sh...

Dave Ross

Ross: Study shows aging effects of sugar

My family informs me that no one wants to hear any more studies about sugar, because they've already heard enough.

7 days ago

school lunches research...

Dave Ross

Ross: New research confirms what we all know about school lunches

From time to time, we'll hear about scientific studies that, after careful research, will rediscover something everybody knew 50 years ago.

9 days ago

FILE - Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, heads to a vot...

Dave Ross

Ross: Mitt Romney leaving politics unveils an intimidating truth

Mitt Romney that he will not run for reelection in 2024. Kind of a surprise since he’s only 76. Which, as Senators go, is barely middle age.

13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Why do Washington voters keep rejecting a carbon fee?