By Bob Edwards
Voters will soon decide on Initiative 1631, a new energy tax. Look into the facts, especially if you own a small business or raise a family in Seattle and King County.
I-1631 is a deeply-flawed energy tax that forces small businesses, families, and consumers to pay billions more in taxes for gasoline, home heating costs, electricity, natural gas —anything requiring energy needed to manufacture or ship goods within our state and to the world.
As a former Seattle port commissioner, we expanded our relationships in Asia, primarily through direct flights linking SeaTac to new cities and markets. But as an elected official who served as Puget Sound Regional Council president, I have a local worry. The layering of taxes is making our region less competitive.
A new energy tax that goes up indefinitely? Add that to bridge tolls, higher license tabs, higher gas taxes for highway projects, higher property taxes for schools. Don’t get me wrong. We need these things. But you know how high taxes are. You write checks to the state, county, and city — and pay at the pump.
And I-1631 is an unfair tax, regressive as they come.
It imposes a $15 fee per ton on certain carbon emissions beginning in 2020. The fee increases by $2 each year plus inflation, quadrupling within 15 years, with no limit on how high it could go.
A state analysis shows I-1631 increases energy taxes by $2.3 billion in the first five years alone. I-1631 adds hundreds of millions of dollars to ratepayers’ energy bills for higher utility costs. And I-1631’s taxes would continue to automatically increase every year — indefinitely, with no set cap.
An independent study reports I-1631 increases gasoline costs by 13 cents per gallon in the first year alone, increasing annually with no cap, adding up to 59 cents more per gallon within 15 years. In addition, there are millions more per year in increased utility costs. Those are big budget hits, especially for families and small businesses.
NERA Economic Consulting puts the total net cost per household at $440 in 2020, increasing to nearly $1,000 by 2035. This reflects costs for all goods and services resulting from I-1631’s new taxes. The study says I-1631 would generate $30 billion in new taxes over 15 years.
The study factors in any new “green” jobs the initiative creates, and still anticipates the loss of workers’ salaries equivalent to 9,000 jobs in 2020, rising to 21,000 in 2035. Eighty percent of these jobs would come from hospitality, healthcare, retail, and service industries, sectors not exempted by I-1631.
It also lacks accountability. I-1631 creates an unelected board of political appointees, with no real accountability to voters or even the Legislature. This board has broad authority to spend billions, with no responsibility for outcomes, no specific plan, and no requirements that the money be spent to reduce greenhouse gases.
Finally, researchers looked at I-1631’s impact on carbon emissions. In the end, researchers say 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. Please join me in voting NO on I-1631.
Bob Edwards is former president of the Port of Seattle Board of Commissioners, former president of the Puget Sound Regional Council, and former president of the Association of Washington Cities.