Inslee proposes plan to charge big polluters to fund budget priorities

Dec 17, 2014, 1:01 PM | Updated: 1:27 pm

Governor Jay Inslee concedes he faces powerful opposition to his plan to charge the state’s biggest polluters to raise money for key budget priorities.

The Governor joined environmentalists, state lawmakers, labor and business leaders Wednesday to announce his “cap and trade” proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“It charges industrial polluters based on the amount of pollution they emit because it’s time for polluters to pay their fair share to solve this problem,” he said.

Inslee said the system sets a limit on carbon. Polluting industries would purchase credits at auction with a minimum price. He expects to raise $1 billion starting in 2016.

Aside from corporate resistance, opposition lawmakers are sure to fight the plan. Inslee said pollution is a threat to our state and he’ll appeal to legislators’ desire to protect future generations.

“They’re highest motivation for what they do, I believe, is to take care of their kids and their grand kids and nothing surpasses that,” he argued. Ultimately, Inslee said he thinks lawmakers will agree that it’s better to tax pollution than voters or drivers, referring to his proposal to tap the cap and trade revenues to help fund transportation projects as an alternative to a higher gasoline tax.

The proposal still needs to be approved by the Legislature, and is certain to face resistance. Republicans will have outright control of the Senate after picking up seats in the November election.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who chairs the Senate environment committee, said the governor’s plan “would make it more expensive to take a family vacation, drive your kids to soccer practice and heat your home.”

Ericksen called it “a general fund tax increase” that will hurt working families and businesses, and said he would work to come up with clean energy solutions that aren’t so costly.

Mindful that jobs could be lost, Inslee said his plan makes allowances for energy-intensive industries who have to compete with other energy-intensive companies in non-regulated markets overseas.

“Because it is not acceptable to me to have a carbon pollution plan that ends up shipping jobs overseas,” Inslee said.

Speaking at the R-E-I store in downtown Seattle, Inslee also proposed initiatives to extend incentives for electric vehicles and to promote cleaner transportation options, including more high-speed charging stations.

Inslee called the proposals doable.

“History has shown that change comes faster and cheaper than we often anticipate,” he said, using the example of solar electricity that he said has dropped in cost an average of 20 percent per year since 2010.

The Governor said he has reason for optimism, adding that failure is not an option in the Evergreen State. Inslee will roll out more complete details of his proposed 2015-2016 budget Thursday in Olympia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Inslee proposes plan to charge big polluters to fund budget priorities