Capitol Ideas: A bait-and-switch budget offer

A bait-and-switch budget offer

What could be more cynical and cruel than convincing people who passionately care about the environment that you have a plan to save it when all you really have is a way to grab money and kill jobs?

That’s what Gov. Jay Inslee insists on doing to his fellow environmentalists by again proposing a new carbon tax, which would do little to nothing to improve the environment yet cost jobs and billions of dollars in economic growth.

In his 2017-19 budget proposal, Inslee revived the idea of a carbon tax — something he has long-wanted, even though voters do not.

Under his plan, Olympia would put an additional tax burden on any employer generating or importing electricity, natural gas or oil. The tax would impact nearly every Washingtonian, increasing the cost of fuel, goods and basic services as costs are shifted from power plants and refineries to drivers and consumers.

This risky scheme — which has never been tried in any state — is projected to pull nearly $2 billion per year out of the economy once fully implemented.

Inslee believes this big price tag will drive industry away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy and innovation. He also argues the funds collected could be used to mitigate environmental damage and fund efficiency programs.

But here is where the ruse on the environmental community is played:

Only half the revenue would go toward the environment. He proposes putting the other half in the general fund to pay for government expenses or education.

Some could even go to irrigation projects as bait for Eastern Washington legislators.

According to a report by the Washington Research Council, petroleum refining was responsible for more than 25,000 jobs and $1.86 billion in personal income for our state’s residents in 2015. The voters have shown no interest in turning that money over to Olympia.

Inslee knows a similar carbon tax was just rejected by voters in the 2016 general election by a 60 percent majority. That proposal, at least, offered reductions in other taxes.

This one does not.

His 2015 carbon cap-and-tax plan never even made it out of the House, which his party controlled.

To base a budget on the Legislature’s approval of a never-before-implemented carbon tax is not an honest or serious starting point for solving the major challenges we face this session.

Making core services and water-irrigation programs dependent on a tax that is not likely to be approved is ridiculous.

— Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, is vice president pro tempore of the Senate and vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.