Letters to the Editor

Legislative analysis of I-732 is flawed

Your recent coverage got the point of Initiative 732 – let's leave state revenue the same, but shift some of the tax burden off the sales tax and working families, and get that money for state programs by taxing carbon pollution instead.

Unfortunately, it didn't really explain why Carbon Washington's economists calculate that I-732 would raise enough money from taxing pollution to make up for its tax cuts, and a legislative analyst thinks it wouldn't.

That’s partly because utilities don't have to specify all their power sources now, and the state calculates emissions they report from "unspecified sources" as if that power came from our relatively clean grid. (Utilities use this gimmick to make their power look cleaner; now, for example, Pacific Power officially gets 39 percent of its power from coal, although 67.4 percent of its system power is coal-fired.)

Your reprinted Seattle Times article says the legislative analysis assumed I-732’s carbon tax wouldn't bring in enough revenue to make up for its tax cuts because utilities would itemize more power sources and that would "reduce their tax liability."

In fact, Pacific Power would pay considerably more carbon taxes by reporting its coal pollution without this gimmick; I'd expect other utilities also already itemize any relatively clean power they can and lower their reported emissions by leaving their dirtier power "unspecified."

We'll know more about this and many other issues in the staff's assumptions when I-732 goes to the Legislature and there's a deeper analysis of I-732’s forecasts.