Over the weekend, Seattle Times editorialist Danny Westneat wrote an editorial, entitled “State Senate doing its oily best to ignore us on transportation,” in which he laments the lack of progress made by Jay Inslee’s cap-and-tax scheme in the state Legislature. His piece is littered with false innuendoes targeting Republican lawmakers, all made with a blasé attitude toward the facts.
Westneat begins his editorial by attributing the lack of legislative interest in Inslee’s cap-and-tax scheme to a “scare campaign” mounted by big oil. He links to a recent Seattle Times article that lists the top legislative recipients of oil industry campaign funding as Republicans and insinuates that the donations make their opposition to the cap-and-tax scheme “oily.”
Essentially, Westneat characterizes Republican opposition to the cap-and-tax scheme not as a matter of principle against a flawed policy that raises energy prices, but as a matter of the oil industry’s campaign support—despite such support generally amounting to one or two of any candidate’s funding. California billionaire Tom Steyer, in a single month, gave a $1.5 million check to Democrat interests in the state during the last campaign, eclipsing over 14 years of the oil industry’s contributions to both parties. Yet, Westneat fails to acknowledge the alternative conclusion that could be drawn by using his logic.
Democrats, who back the cap-and-tax scheme, have the same association with extreme environmental organizations. So-called “green” groups—including those funded by Steyer—pump millions into the election campaigns of Democrats. These organizations have a vested, financial interest in ensuring extreme environmental policies move forward. Claiming the publics’ best interest does not give these green groups the moral high ground, disgraced former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is proof of this reality. In light of the Kitzhaber scandal, Westneat is remiss—bordering on dishonest—to cast stones at Republican lawmakers. His omission is made all the more unjust by the fact that the very same organizations behind the corruption in Oregon also fund Democrat politicians in Washington State.
Unfortunately, that’s not where the stoning of Republican lawmakers ends. Westneat’s argument relies on the erroneous assumption that Republicans are the only obstacle to Inslee’s cap-and-tax scheme when, in fact, the plan does not even have enough support to pass the Democrat-controlled state House. As Shift reported, Inslee’s cap-and-tax bill only garnered 37 co-sponsors (all Democrats) in the House. The lack of majority co-sponsors is a testament to the lack of support—he needs 50 votes—the policy has among Democrats who are worried about the policy’s economic impacts. More, Inslee knows his cap-and-tax scheme does not have the support of many members of his party. Inslee refused to defend his policy—what he labeled a “moral obligation”—before the House Environment Committee though he would have received an overwhelming sympathetic acceptance by Democrat members.
Westneat also claims that state Senate Republicans rejected Inslee’s cap-and-tax scheme before the legislative session even started. That’s simply not true. GOP Sen. Doug Ericksen, chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, promised to give Inslee’s cap-and-tax bill a hearing if it reaches the Senate. Republicans did not outright declare Inslee’s cap-and-tax bill dead on arrival, as Westneat claims. The problem so far has been, as previously stated, that the bill does not even have enough support to pass the Democrat-controlled state House.
Westneat presents his claims in light of a new survey of Puget Sound region voters that reveals public support for a cap-and-tax scheme. He argues that people want it, they should get.
Here’s the catch: the survey found that 63% support “reducing greenhouse gases by taxing those who release the most pollutants into the air.” Notice the survey does not use the common labels of “cap-and-trade” or “cap-and-tax.” The survey also found that only 3 in 10 people support raising the gas tax. See the discrepancy?
According to a new study written in part by a Washington State University economist, “since the Governor’s cap-and-trade proposal is state-based, the full cost of it would be borne by Washington consumers.” The Washington Policy Center’s Todd Myers points out that “Gas taxes are collected at the refiner level or when the fuel is offloaded into the state. Cap-and-trade would be the same, paid not by gas stations or consumers but by refiners or companies that ship oil into the state. The process of collection is virtually identical.”
In other words, Inslee’s cap-and-tax scheme is a very expensive version of a gas tax, which 3 in 10 people do not support.
Finally, Westneat claims that California’s cap-and-tax scheme has not so far passed higher energy and gas costs on to consumers. The price increase per gallon of gas “has been only about 9 to 10 cents,” he writes. That’s also simply not true.
The combination of California’s fuel mandate and cap-and-tax scheme—two policies Inslee would like nothing more to implement—have managed to exasperate fuel production in the state. As Shift reported, unforeseen events resulted in a shortage of gasoline that meets California’s high standard. Under the cap-and-tax law, companies carry an even heavier burden and higher cost for meeting the standard.
The heavy-handed regulations have made it very difficult to recover from the unforeseen, yet devastating interruptions to gasoline production on which the state depends. As a result, Californians witnessed a surge in gas prices by 60 cents per gallon over the course of one month.
Like the fuel mandate, the consequences are greater than the obvious effect of consumers adsorbing higher costs passed on by companies. But, one or another, the consequences all seem to hit hardworking families’ pocketbooks the hardest.
The costs of cap-and-tax schemes are unpredictable. Which, incidentally, is significant because, according to the survey Westneat cites, 85% of respondents believe that a predictable long-term solution is very important.