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Wednesday, October 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gov. Jay Inslee talks carbon fees, Democratic gains in elections, net neutrality and presidential aspirations

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 15, 2017, 9:20 p.m.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talks to reporters, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, during the unveiling of his supplemental budget proposal at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talks to reporters, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, during the unveiling of his supplemental budget proposal at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (Ted S. Warren / AP)

Gov. Jay Inslee this week unveiled a budget plan including a new a carbon fee to that would initially cover an increase in education spending.

The carbon plan would raise about $1.5 billion a year. Details on how it would work will be released next month, Inslee said.

Inslee discussed his budget plan along with other prominent topics in an interview Friday with The Spokesman-Review.

Q: Explain your budget plan.

A: This finishes both the constitutional and the familial obligations to our children, our students, in the state constitution and we should be very proud of that achievement, to get that job done. The Legislature has done some very heavy lifting over the last two bienniums to put billions –with a B – into education. By advancing that one year, it finishes the job.

The court gave a blue-ribbon seal of approval to the plan that I signed last year, but it simply said they needed it to start one year earlier. So we are in a good position to be able to do that because we do have the cash on hand in our reserves to be able to fulfill that commitment, and we’ve also suggested a fiscally responsible position to make sure that we restore those reserves in the next biennium, and we’ve proposed a revenue source to do that in a carbon pricing system. So we have both a constitutional success and fiscally responsible way to do that, and I’m recommending it to the Legislature for their consideration.

Q: Why do you think you can advance a carbon tax or fee proposal this year when you’ve previously struggled to even win support in the state House controlled by Democrats?

A: The world changes over time. It took us years to pass gay marriage, and years to pass closing the gun show loopholes. Sometimes these things take years and that’s not surprising on something of this dimension. In previous years we had a state Senate that was locked up against doing anything on climate change and that made the House reluctant to take action that they knew was going nowhere.

The damage to our state is becoming so apparent and obvious almost on a weekly basis. The public now understands the crisis that we’re in where our forests are burning down, our waters are acidified, our children are having increasing asthma. People are now experiencing this firsthand. In previous years climate change and ocean acidification have been a line on a graph. Now they’re ash on top of your car when you go out in the morning in Seattle because our forests are burning down. This is a real thing, in real lives, affecting real jobs and real industries.

Q: Do you expect manufacturing jobs to leave the state if faced with carbon taxes or fees?

A: That has not been the experience. I’ve been a student of these internationally and what the previous carbon pricing systems have demonstrated is that if they are well-designed they do not, repeat, do not result in the off-shoring of industries. It has not happened in Europe. It has not happened in British Columbia where British Columbia imposed a $25-a-ton tax on carbon. You can’t point to a single industry as far as I know that has moved out of British Columbia. In fact, it’s the hottest economy in Canada. Same thing in California. So what you see is these systems of protecting clean air, clean water have not resulted in de-industrialization. Every single time we’ve tried to protect clean air and clean water for the last 40 years since the first Earth Day, these concerns have been raised and they just don’t come to pass because having clean air and clean water is a good economic issue as well.

We’re not alone in this. This might be a little larger concern if Washington was the only place in the world that’s moving against carbon. The whole world is adopting constraints on carbon pollution except one address, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., that is currently occupied by a guy who believes climate change is a hoax. That is the only place where that brain-dead attitude prevails. So we’re in league with the rest of the world.

Q: Is there any state or country that you can say might be a carbon model of what you will be proposing?

A: No, this is a boutique proposal we will be making that is specific to our state’s needs. But as I’ve indicated, there are multiple places around the world that have had policies that are working. All we have to do is look across our border to the north. (Besides British Columbia, he mentioned systems he said were successful in Northeastern states, California, Europe and Asia.)

Q: How can Washington go it alone in enforcing net neutrality?

A: Washington is a state with jurisdiction of our territory and 7 million people and we have the ability to protect consumers under Washington state law. We have the ability to control access to our power lines and our telephone poles under Washington state law. We have the ability to decide what we buy and do not buy, what ISP services we buy and do not buy and we’re the largest customer of ISP services in the state of Washington. So we have a lot of tools in our disposal to see to it that consumers and small businesses are protected.

You can anticipate efforts to try to stop us from protecting our own people but we are not going to be intimidated by that. We believe their view is just simply wrong as it has been on many occasions. We believe that we have the ability to protect our consumers under the federal, state constitutions and under our own laws.

Q: Your administration has backed increasing the smoking age to 21. Do you expect the Legislature to back this proposal?

A: I think so. I can’t give you any sort of vote count but I think something that is so important to the health of our young people is just a good idea. We will be advancing it. I hope it succeeds.

Q: Do you have any interest in running for president in 2020?

A: I’m just focused on the best job in the world, which is being the governor in the state of Washington. It is a great job, because we’re doing so many dynamic things here. We’re inventing so many technologies. We’re welcoming so many new people.

Q: Would you rule out running for president in 2020?

A: I’m focused on my job here. That’s what I’m doing.

This interview with Inslee was shortened and edited for clarity.

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