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Government and Politics

Carbon Tax Initiative Sponsors Consider Not Turning In Signatures

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Carbon Washington
This graph from the home page of the Carbon Washington website Dec. 21 shows supporters the I-732 campaign met signature goals early.

The sponsors of a Washington initiative to tax carbon emissions say they're considering not turning in a final batch of about 100,000 voter signatures by December 31 that would all but assure the measure would go before the legislature in January.

Such a move -- gathering more than enough signatures to qualify an initiative and then not submitting them -- would be unusual, if not unprecedented, in the history of Washington initiatives and referenda.

In a letter to supporters posted to the Carbon Washington website Monday night, Initiative 732 sponsor Yoram Bauman said an alternative carbon pricing measure has emerged that polls better.

"We are leaning towards embracing the alternative measure as the best shot of getting climate action in Washington State in 2016," Bauman wrote.

He said details of the competing measure are still being worked out, but that it would be a "carbon fee" with significant portions of the revenues going to support clean energy and clean water projects.

In October the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, backed by labor and environmental interests, announced its intention to pursue an alternative carbon-pricing ballot measure. The Alliance conducted the polling that Bauman references in his blog post.

On Oct. 29 Bauman and a parade of supporters carried boxes of nearly 250,000 signatures to the Washington secretary of state's office. Those would be just enough to meet the qualification threshold only if each one was valid, but there are always duplicates and unregistered voter names in a statewide petition drive.

Bauman said a final decision on whether to scrap the I-732 signatures had not been made. He announced a Tuesday evening conference call to allow campaign supporters and volunteers to weigh in.

Early comments from readers of Bauman's blog post were not supportive.

"Don't mess it up," wrote one commenter identified as Guy. "Don't betray the the 350k people who signed and everybody who worked on this in any capacity."

Initiative 732 is an initiative to the legislature that's been billed as a revenue neutral tax on carbon. It would impose a $25 per ton charge on carbon emissions while at the same time cutting the state sales tax by one-percent. The measure would also fund a working families tax rebate and a reduction in the business and occupation tax on manufacturing.

Carbon Washington has raised and spent nearly $700,000 from a long list of generous individual donors that includes Bauman and former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic.