I-732: Our state can lead on a bipartisan climate policy

Seven years ago, I joined a politically diverse group of national leaders urging Congress to develop a bipartisan plan to address the climate change crisis. Democrats and Republicans in that group, all of whom served their country in a variety of roles -- in Congress, the Executive Branch and Military -- agreed that without leadership by the United States we cannot solve the problem, and that the longer we wait to act, the harder it will be to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Congress has not heeded our plea for bipartisan leadership on climate change.  President Obama’s executive orders on the issue have only served to deepen the partisan divide.

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But in this general election, voters in Washington State have the opportunity to lead the country to a solution that has broad bipartisan support — a revenue neutral carbon tax proposed by Initiative 732. Based on a successful law in British Columbia, it would make polluters pay for their carbon dioxide emissions, and return the increased state revenues to reduce existing sales and business taxes.  I-732 has been endorsed by Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature. 

By applying a stable and predictable price on carbon emissions, I-732 will provide incentives for our state to burn less oil and coal, reducing sulfur, arsenic, and mercury in our air. It will accelerate the switch to affordable clean energy from wind, hydro and solar.

I-732’s revenue neutral approach also offers a sound solution to reduce the impact on our wallets. It lowers taxes the sales tax from 6.5 to 5.5 percent; provides an annual rebate of up to $1,500 to 460,000 low income working families; and cuts taxes for manufacturers to keep them competitive and protect jobs in the state.

Like any legislation, I-732 is not perfect. But we should not let perfection be the enemy of the good, and certainly not with an issue like climate change where the passage of time makes it more costly to address the problem.  The Legislature has time and again ironed out perceived imperfections with initiatives and voters can be confident that it will do so here as well.

The nonpartisan Washington Business Alliance found that I-732 will meet about half of the carbon reduction targets that have already been enacted by the Legislature. It is a necessary first step toward reaching our state’s adopted carbon reduction goals.  I-732 can and should be complemented by other programs aimed at accelerating the shift to clean energy.

As our bipartisan national group noted nine years ago, the United States cannot alone solve climate change.  Adopting Initiative 732 marks the beginning of a journey toward a national, and ultimately a global climate policy. But it is a very important first step that that, I believe, will inspire other states to follow our lead.

We have a responsibility to our children and their children to tackle climate change now as every year we wait, the costs to mitigate impact of climate change go up, and the costs to solve the problem begin to go out of reach.

Passing I-732 is an opportunity for the voters of our state to show the other Washington the way to a bipartisan solution for climate change.

Slade Gorton represented Washington State as a U.S. senator from 1981-1987, and from 1989-2001.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.