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Will A Carbon Tax Fly In Washington State, Even After Rejection Of I-732?

Rachel La Corte
AP Photo
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee discusses his education funding proposal, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016 in Tacoma, Wash. Inslee has proposed that the state spend an additional $3.9 billion on education over the next two years.

More than half of the new revenue in the budget proposal announced by Governor Inslee this week comes from the introduction of a tax on carbon pollution. That’s even after Washington voters resoundingly rejected a carbon tax proposal on the fall ballot.

But research from the non-profit Nature Conservancy shows Inslee’s proposal is actually consistent with what voters want, even though only about 40 percent of Washington voters supported Initiative 732, the “carbon-neutral tax swap,”

The Nature Conservancy wanted to know the reason why, said the organization’s director of government relations, Mo McBroom. So they did an exit poll of opponents, as well as supporters of the tax.

“We found that a significant number of those voters who opposed Initiative 732 did want the state to take action on climate. In fact, they were just waiting for a measure that ... they felt was less confusing or would be more effective in tackling the challenge,” McBroom said.  

Overall, they found 69 percent of Washington voters support climate action — and nearly half “strongly support” it.

“And you see it across the board, among Democrats, among independents, and among Republicans,” she said.

They also asked what voters want revenue from a carbon tax to be spent on and found the strongest majorities went to preventing pollution and protecting natural areas (73 percent and 67 percent, respectively.) But 60 percent also wanted it to go to improving K-12 education. Inslee’s proposal would devote half of the $2 billion raised to the school system.

McBroom says she’s looking forward to the discussion as the House and Senate put their budget proposals forward in January.

“Given the strong public support for taking action on climate, what the governor is doing is connecting something that the public feels very strongly about — they want to see solutions that work for our state’s economy and for families,” she said. “And we also know that we’ve got some tough decisions to make as a state about our budget and potential new revenue.”

The Nature Conservancy did their exit polling independently and has not yet shared it with lawmakers.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to