Fears and anxieties reveal a lot about us. So what does it say about the Left that they’re so worried about measuring the effectiveness of their schemes and programs?
Well, it says they’re worried the results won’t look too good. It says they think their good intentions outweigh whether a program actually accomplishes anything useful. And it says they think they’re above being evaluated and measured.
It’s fair to wonder all these things about the sponsors of the new I-1631, a carbon tax initiative. They wrote exemptions into the initiative to ensure the tax preferences it contains won’t be subject to the usual evaluation process all other state tax preferences have to go through.
There will be no performance statements, should I-1631 pass, to show us if the law is meeting its goals (because it won’t have any official goals). Gosh, don’t they think this thing is going to be a resounding success?
Tax? What tax?
Lefties in Washington have some real hang-ups when it comes to telling the truth about taxes. The capital gains income tax isn’t an income tax, they insist. Seattle’s (illegal) local income tax doesn’t tax net income, they somehow argue. And I-1631, which would institute a tax on carbon, doesn’t contain a tax at all, according to them.
The carbon tax can’t be a tax, after all, because the initiative specifically says it isn’t. Section 20 of I-1631 reads, “The people find and determine that the pollution fee imposed in this chapter is not a tax in light of the purposes, benefits, and use of the fee.”
Well, that settles that then – not a tax. They say so.
But a skeptic might ask, if it looks like a tax and acts like a tax, isn’t it a tax? Fees and taxes are different, after all. Fees are charged by government for specific events and services – you pay a fee for a driver’s license or a sewer hook-up or to register your marriage.
A tax is compulsory, applies to everyone, and is not connected to a specific service rendered in exchange, as a fee is. Given that, doesn’t that make I-1631’s carbon tax a tax and not a fee? Of course it does.
But apparently the sponsors’ opinion of voters is so low that they think they might trick you with this one. No taxes in here, people!
You can’t measure a goal that doesn’t exist
But just in case some judge (or anyone with basic reading comprehension skills) sees through their “not-a-tax” bluster, I-1631’s sponsors are ready. Section 20 continues: “Nevertheless, if a court of final jurisdiction determines that the pollution fee imposed in this chapter is a tax, then that tax shall be deemed authorized, imposed, and exempt from the provisions of RCW 82.32.805 and 82.32.808.”
And what are those sections of state law that I-1631’s sponsors are anxious to exempt their scheme from? Let’s take a look.
(1)(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, every new tax preference expires on the first day of the calendar year that is subsequent to the calendar year that is ten years from the effective date of the tax preference. With respect to any new property tax exemption, the exemption does not apply to taxes levied for collection beginning in the calendar year that is subsequent to the calendar year that is ten years from the effective date of the tax preference.
RCW 82.32.808 Tax preferences—Performance statement requirement. (Effective until January 1, 2018.)
(1) As provided in this section, every bill enacting a new tax preference must include a tax preference performance statement, unless the legislation enacting the new tax preference contains an explicit exemption from the requirements of this section.
(4) A new tax preference performance statement must specify clear, relevant, and ascertainable metrics and data requirements that allow the joint legislative audit and review committee and the legislature to measure the effectiveness of the new tax preference in achieving the purpose designated under subsection (2) of this section.
So, with contingent exemptions in place just in case some pesky judge says I-1631’s carbon tax is a carbon tax and its tax preferences are tax preferences, initiative sponsors are attempting to make sure:
- The initiative’s tax exemptions don’t expire. The whole purpose of evaluating a tax exemption every 10 years is to see if it is meeting its goals. It’s the Left that is always barking in Olympia about rigorously evaluating tax exemptions and making sure the state actually gets some benefit from the exemption. But when it’s something the Left likes – nah, no need for a once-a-decade review.
- The initiative’s performance can’t be evaluated. You can’t measure performance if the law has no stated purpose and no goals, right? Even though all other tax preferences are required to include these, I-1631’s authors decided “No, we’re not doing that.”
They couldn’t make it any clearer: Should I-1631 become law, they don’t want any irritating questions about whether the law is doing any good. They shouldn’t have to answer those kinds of questions anyway, right? Their intentions are good! And that’s the only goal that really counts with them.