Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee heard testimony on Substitute House Bill 1314, the Governor’s latest cap and trade bill. Sixteen witnesses affiliated with the Washington Climate Collaborative showed up to demonstrate the diverse opposition to this bill. We heard from farmers, small forestland owners, manufacturers, including Kaiser Aluminum, and even the Washington Public Utility Districts Association.
Our witnesses highlighted the many troubling aspects of this new, even more complex proposal. Just a sample includes the creation of a new, complicated rebate system that exempts some employers and significantly taxes others, a regulatory structure that will involve five separate government agencies, the phase-in of a significant increase in gas prices and the immediate increase in the price of electricity and natural gas.
In a maneuver sure to raise all kinds of legal and political issues, the new proposal temporarily exempts Washington motorists from the coming gas price increase, while socking it to neighboring states by exempting rebates on production for gas exported out of the state. Oregon, which gets 90 percent of its gas from Washington, will surely wonder why they’re being asked to fund Washington schools when they’re struggling to fund their own.
Schools are an important issue because this version of the bill also changes where the revenue from the proposal would go. Previously, portions of the tax would go to transportation. Because there are now so many proposed rebates, there is less money to be doled out. As a result, this new version earmarks more money for education. Of course we need to fund education, but even the Washington Education Association doesn’t believe this is the way to do it. At the hearing, State Rep. Chad Magendanz asked the WEA witness if cap and trade was “his preference for funding public education.” The reply? “Absolutely not.” (Time code 1:27:00)
It’s no secret that the Governor wants something – anything – to pass on cap and trade. We’re all motivated to reduce carbon emissions, but his insistence on a singular, government-run, complicated solution is just wrong. As this latest proposal shows, the entire effort has descended into an exercise in political horse-trading. With so much willingness to enact proven, collaborative policies that work, we are perplexed as to how desperate this exercise has become.