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State senator renews push for carbon fee in Washington


State Senator Steve Hobbs is pushing for a massive, decade-long transportation package, funded by a familiar initiative for Washington voters: A carbon fee.

RELATED: Why do Washington voters keep rejecting a carbon fee?
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A report from The Everett Herald laid out the legislation. Hobbs’s package would be a 10-year, $10 billion bill for transportation, with a pair of funding initiatives, which voters have proven reluctant to support, in a carbon fee and a gas-tax increase.

Hobbs is the chairman of Washington state’s Senate Transportation Committee. His proposed bill would look to fund the removal of culverts blocking fish passages, build electric-powered ferries, pay for the state’s contribution for a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River, and more.

All of that could very well seem appealing to Washington residents, were it not for Hobbs looking to fund it with a carbon fee that levies $15 per metric ton of carbon emissions, as well as a six-cent increase to the state’s gas tax.

Most recently, state voters struck down a similar $15 per metric ton carbon fee in the form of I-1631, by a 56.6 to 43.4 percent margin. I-1631 proved divisive and, like other carbon fee proposals, it was difficult to gain approval. Local figures such as Bill Gates supported the initiative. But some climate experts even opposed it.

Before that, Washington voted down a different carbon fee measure in 2016, while another proposed state carbon tax died in the Legislature earlier this year.

The key difference for this new proposed carbon fee: The money would be specifically earmarked for his transportation measure. The money collected under the recently failed I-1631 would have been distributed by a selected committee to an assortment of environmental measures.

It could be a tough uphill battle for Hobbs given the state’s reluctance in recent years to support similar fees. That said, his hope is that this is the one that will finally stick.

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