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Sunday, April 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Dan Wilson and Kyle England: Initiative 732’s carbon tax hurts families, small businesses

Dan Wilson, Kyle England

In Eastern Washington there are three things we value above all else: our families, the natural beauty of our area and good jobs that allow us to live and thrive here.

The last thing any of us wants is pollution or more greenhouse gas emissions threatening the things we value most. The good news is Washington workers and employers have been driving down carbon dioxide emissions in our state. Since 1990, Washington’s population has increased from 4.9 million to 7.1 million and its economy has grown by 260 percent. Yet, since 1990, carbon emissions from the commercial and industrial sectors have decreased by 18 percent.

That’s why the Initiative 732 energy tax doesn’t make any sense for our state, or Eastern Washington. I-732 would enact a new energy tax on every Washington family and business under the guise of reducing carbon emissions. We need to reduce carbon emissions, but not on the backs of families and small business. That’s why labor, businesses, farmers and families across the state oppose I-732.

I-732 will increase costs on families by an average $448 per year with new taxes on gasoline, electricity, natural gas, according to an Energy Strategies study commissioned by the No on I-732 campaign. Even the initiative’s backers admit that I-732 would increase the price of a gallon of gas by 25 cents almost immediately. The price of natural gas would go up by 15 percent and the cost of electricity by 5 percent. When there is already such a gap between the rich and the poor in this country, the last thing we need is another regressive tax that makes it even harder to make ends meet.

Eastern Washington is a border zone. The more taxes we pile on businesses, the more likely we are to see them head east to Idaho or states with far fewer restrictions on carbon emissions. In fact, I-732 will result in 15,000 fewer jobs in Washington’s manufacturing sector, according to the Energy Strategies study.

This unfortunately matches with what happened in 2013, two years after California set up a similar carbon-pricing system. That year, there were only 46 manufacturing operations that started or expanded in that state. Texas, a state with some of the highest carbon emissions in the nation, had 253 that year. This results in “leakage,” whereby well-paying manufacturing jobs move out of clean states like Washington and into polluter states, which will have the unintended consequence of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

With more than 6,000 members in Washington, the United Steelworkers Union is very concerned about the effect I-732 will have on jobs. As Washington’s top producer of high-quality aluminum products, Kaiser has continuously reduced its carbon footprint by relying on Washington’s clean hydroelectricity and by investing in projects to further increase overall plant energy efficiency. To remain competitive in a global market, Kaiser needs a level playing field. Any new across-the-board tax on energy will make it harder for Kaiser to compete with facilities both overseas and domestically.

This isn’t a debate about cutting carbon emissions. It’s a debate about how we do it. A costly energy tax on Eastern Washington families and businesses is not the right approach. We need to work together to find real solutions that continue to reduce carbon emissions while keeping Washington a vibrant place to live and work. Join us in voting no on Initiative 732.

Dan Wilson is president of the United Steel Workers Local 338. Kyle England is senior manager of human resources and external affairs for Kaiser Aluminum.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated to reflect the fact that the Energy Strategies study was commissioned by the No on I-732 campaign, and that its estimate for household electricity costs was too high.

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