I-1631 means higher costs, no impact on emissions: Column
By Debbie Doran-Martinez
Ballots are starting to arrive and it’s getting to be decision time. As someone who works with a lot of businesses, especially small businesses, I am concerned about the impact of the costs associated with Initiative 1631, the energy tax measure. That’s why the chamber is opposed, and why I am voting No on I-1631.
Living in the Columbia Basin, we do have some mass transit options. But most of us — especially businesses — rely on our vehicles to get around town or leave the county. We also rely on vehicles to transport products and deliver goods and services.
Here, transportation costs matter. Heating costs, in Eastern Washington, also matter. For small businesses, big increases in those two line item costs can make or break things.
That’s why I dug into the facts on I-1631. Because the facts, as I see them, don’t add up.
I-1631 is a deeply-flawed energy tax that would force Washington farmers, small businesses, families and consumers to pay billions more in taxes for gasoline, home heating costs, electricity, natural gas and pretty much anything else that requires energy and is manufactured or shipped in Washington.
As proposed, Initiative 1631 would impose a $15 fee per ton on certain carbon emissions beginning in 2020. The fee would increase by $2 each year plus inflation, quadrupling within 15 years, with no limit on how high it could go.
A state analysis shows that 1631 would increase energy taxes by $2.3 billion in the first five years alone. In addition, I-1631 would add hundreds of millions of dollars to ratepayers’ energy bills for higher costs for utilities. And I-1631’s taxes would continue to automatically increase every year — indefinitely, with no set cap.
Independent studies have already estimated that 1631 would increase the cost of gasoline by 13 cents per gallon in the first year alone, increasing annually with no cap, quickly adding up to almost 60 cents more per gallon within 15 years. In addition, there would be millions more per year in increased costs for utilities. Those are two big hits to any business’s budget, but especially here in Moses Lake, where we drive more and it’s colder in the winter.
A new study by NERA Economic Consulting says the total net cost per household is projected to be $440 in 2020, the first year under I-1631, and increasing to nearly $1,000 per household by 2035. This reflects the increased costs for all goods and services resulting from I-1631’s new taxes. All told, the study says I-1631 would generate $30 billion in new taxes over 15 years.
This same study factors in any new “green” jobs the initiative creates, and still anticipates the loss of income to workers equivalent to 9,000 jobs in 2020, rising to 21,000 jobs in 2035. Eighty percent of these jobs are expected to come from the sectors not exempted under the measure, including jobs in the hospitality, health care, retail and service industries.
It also lacks accountability for how the billions in taxes would be spent. I-1631 would create an unelected board of political appointees, with no real accountability to voters or even the Legislature. This board would have broad authority to spend billions, with no responsibility for outcomes, no specific plan, and no requirements that the money be spent specifically to reduce greenhouse gases.
Plus, there’s no requirement under I-1631 to meet any specific greenhouse gas reduction goals. Ironically, the measure rewards failure by increasing the fees, and the taxpayer dollars collected, for every year the proposed goals are not met.
Finally, researchers looked at I-1631’s impact on carbon emissions. In the end, researchers say after 15 years and $30 billion, the state won’t meet its reduction goals and would leave 93 percent of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions untouched.
When you look at the facts, I-1631 fails on every count. It would burden us all with an unfair energy tax that would continue to increase indefinitely with no cap, and provides no meaningful protection for the environment.
The Columbia Basin, its people, small businesses and economy can’t afford I-1631. I urge you to vote No on Initiative 1631.
Debbie Doran-Martinez is the president and CEO of the Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce.