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Donors duke it out over Washington's proposed carbon tax

This November, Washington voters must decide how to vote on the nation’s first ever carbon tax. Initiative 732 would increase taxes on fossil fuel consumption to fight climate change, but cut business and sales taxes.


The campaign to pass a carbon tax in Washington has reported just over $1 million in funds raised so far. The opposing group has about $235,000.   

Menno Van Wyk came to Washington as a young man and founded a hiking shoe company called Montrail. Now he’s retired, and he’s putting his time and $50,000 of his money into the effort to pass Initiative 732.

Van Wyk: “The natural amenities, the beauty of our surroundings, all, I think would be enhanced if we led the way in tackling climate change before it’s too late.”

The measure would tax the use of fossil fuels, but decrease business and sales taxes to compensate.

So far, manufacturers and agriculture groups are the main donors to the campaign against the carbon tax, sponsored by the Association of Washington Business.

The Northwest Pulp and Paper Association has given $40,000. Chris McCabe heads that group.

McCabe: “For our folks in Washington, the price tag would be in the tens of millions of dollars.”

Putting them at a competitive disadvantage.

McCabe said the measure would also fall short on state funding and raise the costs of heating homes and driving cars.

McCabe: “The impacts are real and would be immediate and I think would affect the state and local governments and ultimately rate payers as much as it would businesses and companies.”

Van Wyk said there’s no doubt some energy-intensive businesses would have higher tax bills. But he said the impact of climate change would also be expensive – the state puts it at $10 billion a year by 2020.

Van Wyk: “We can’t fix climate change by ourselves to avoid all of those costs. But this is the easiest way to take that first step.”

A state analysis finds the measure could bring a budget shortfallof $800 million over six years. But Seattle’s Sightline Institute says the initiative is revenue-neutral and would make the state tax code more progressive by cutting sales tax and giving working families a tax credit.

Year started with KUOW: 2005