And here’s the thing: Supporters of Amendment 1 appear to agree with them. In a secret recording obtained by the Miami Herald, the vice president of a conservative think tank funded by the utility industry called Amendment 1 an “incredibly savvy maneuver” that would “would completely negate anything they (pro-solar interests) would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road.”
“As you guys look at policy in your state, or constitutional ballot initiatives in your state, remember this: Solar polls very well,” he added.
In other words, Amendment 1 seems almost designed to deceive voters. Al Gore calls it a “phoney-baloney” initiative, and environmental groups widely oppose it. As does, The New York Times adds, Jimmy Buffett. Clean energy is now so popular that its opponents have to trick voters.
* * *
Meanwhile, in the other corner of the country, Washingtonians are debating another critical climate policy, though one that’s far less popular in the United States.
Ballot Initiative 732 would introduce a carbon tax in Washington state. If adopted, Washingtonians would pay a tax, collected at the gas pump and in their utility bill, for every ton of carbon dioxide that they emit. The fee—starting at $15 per ton of carbon in 2017, jumping to $25 per ton in 2018, then rising 3.5 percent plus inflation annually until it reached $100—would quickly become the most stringent carbon tax in North America. The national carbon tax that Canada passed this year peaks at about $38 per ton of carbon.
More critically, the I-732 plan would become the first carbon tax in the United States. And it would do so in a “revenue-neutral” way: For the roughly $2.2 billion in revenue brought in by the carbon tax, the state would make about $2.2 billion in cuts to other taxes: $400 million in cuts to the manufacturers’ tax, $300 million in once-per-year rebates to working people, and a 1 percent cut in the state sales tax.
Sounds good, right? I-732 meets a centrist policy goal in a transparent, conservative-friendly way—more or less realizing the ideal Pigovian tax that economists hope will mitigate carbon emissions. And as an added plus, I-732 would make Washington’s state tax system a little more progressive. (The state currently lacks a personal income tax, so it relies heavily on sales tax revenue, making its state tax system the most regressive in the country.)
And yet. If I-732 wins on Tuesday, it will do so narrowly. A wide swath of progressive groups across the state oppose the measure, including the local Democratic Party, labor unions, civil-rights activists, and many environmental groups. The Sierra Club announced that it does not support the measure (though it specifically doesn’t oppose it, either). Many of these organizations are part of a different group that supports a carbon tax—a different one—named the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy.