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Inslee unveils climate proposals ahead of budget plan

Governor Jay Inslee wears a navy blue suit and a black face mask as he speaks from a lectern with the State of Washington seal on it.
Ted S. Warren
The Associated Press
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaks Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, during a news conference in Olympia. Inslee announced several climate-related proposals for the 2022 legislative session, including a plan to offer rebates on the purchase of new and used electric vehicles for qualified buyers.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Monday several climate-related proposals for the next legislative session, including a plan to offer rebates for new and used electric vehicles, on top of the sales tax exemption that currently exists for such vehicles in the state.

Under the proposal, rebates of up to $7,500 would be available for new electric sedans listed under $55,000 and $80,000 for new vans, sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks. The rebate drops to $5,000 for used vehicles, and a $1,000 rebate would be offered for zero-emission motorcycles and e-bikes. People would be eligible for rebates if they make under $250,000 a year, or under $500,000 a year for joint tax filer households.

Low-income drivers — individuals with an income of below $61,000 — would be eligible for an additional $5,000 rebate toward the purchase of a new or used electric vehicle.

Since August 2019, the state has had a sales and use tax exemption for alternative fuel and certain plug-in hybrids sold or valued at $45,000 or less if new and $30,000 or less if used.

Inslee's also looking to expand clean building requirements and bolster the workforce for clean energy jobs, and he said his plan looks to reduce the state's annual emissions by 6 million metric tons a year in order to hit targets set in state law.

“Climate change is moving faster and therefore we must move faster,” Inslee said at a news conference to announce his plan. “We have to up our game.”

Inslee’s climate proposal also looks to do the following:

  • Require all new construction that begins in 2034 to reduce energy use by 80%, use all-electric equipment and appliances, implement electrical panel capacity and wiring for solar panels, and incorporate electric vehicle charging and battery storage.
  • Allow consumer-owned utilities to use ratepayer funds for incentive programs to switch customers from fossil fuels like gas to electric space and water heating. Currently, only investor-owned and co-op utilities are the only utilities allowed to offer such programs.
  • Create the Office Climate Commitment Accountability to work with state agencies.
  • Expand air quality monitoring in communities that have disproportionally have dealt with effects of pollution because of their proximity to ports or highways.
  • Spend nearly $324 million on ferry electrification, including fully paying for the state's first 144-car hybrid electric ferry, and building a second electric ferry.

The overall price tag for Inslee's climate proposals is $626 million, which he said would come out of existing state revenues.
Monday's announcement was the first of a handful of policy announcements ahead of Inslee releasing his state supplemental budget Thursday. The Democratic-controlled House and Senate will each present their own budget proposals during the 60-day legislative session that begins Jan. 10.

Rachel La Corte covers politics and the Washington state Legislature for The Associated Press.
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