Today, February 6, the Seattle Times reported on cap-and-trade proposals in Washington and California. After praising the California plan, the reporter wrote about Governor Inslee's plan: "But cap-and-trade is unlikely to die with the end of the legislative session. A second carbon initiative may be launched to put Inslee’s plan on the November 2016 ballot." ("A second carbon initiative" refers to the possibility that the first carbon initiative would be CarbonWA carbon tax plan.)
We cannot predict with certainty that the Inslee plan will die in the legislature, but it is problematic in that there has been major opposition and there is a chance that it will not get out of the House, much less the Senate. What would it mean to have a "second carbon initiative" to take the Inslee plan to the voters?
On the plus side, there is a better chance that the cap-and-trade plan would gain support from a majority of Washington voters, who are more likely to support such an initiative than the legislature. A further plus is that the idea of an initiative is plausible enough to put the legislature on notice that action is needed. Proof that a majority of Washington residents support climate action even if it costs them would push the government to act.
On the minus side, there is the distinct possibility of two competing initiatives on the ballot in November 2016. Of course, even before then the arduous tasks of gathering signatures could divide the environment community if there are two paths to the same goal. Yoram Bauman has stated that CarbonWA would pull back from gathering signatures if the legislature passes the Inslee plan, but he has not made the same promise about a cap-and-trade initiative.
What would happen if both initiatives pass? It is conceivable that Washington could have both a carbon tax and cap-and-trade, but it would certainly invite litigation and tie up both initiatives in the courts. We may create a real mess.
There are other sides to this argument. As Bill said, competing initiatives could divide the environmental activists and make it difficult to get signatures. The Carbon Tax Initiative is an initiative to the legislature. There are two options for initiatives. You can either direct it to the legislature or to the voters. Those directed to the legislature are passed on to the voters, if there the legislature doesn’t act.
So both may not be on the ballot at the same time, depending on the decision of supporters of a cap and trade initiative. That would give us two bites at the apple and do a lot more toward making the legislature understand that the citizens of Washington are very concerned about carbon pollution.
What do you think about this? Do you have strategies or ideas about ways to think about this? Post your comments. Everyone is welcome.