OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday announced several climate-related proposals for the next legislative session, including a plan to offer rebates for new and used electric vehicles, on top of the sales tax exemption that currently exists for such vehicles in the state.
Inslee wants to earmark $100 million a year for a beefed-up program aimed at getting drivers to move on from their gas powered vehicles.
Under the proposal, rebates of up to $7,500 would be available for new electric sedans listed under $55,000 and for new vans, sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks under $80,000. It would be $5,000 for used vehicles, and a $1,000 rebate would be offered for zero-emission motorcycles and e-bikes. Those earning under $250,000 a year, or under $500,000 a year for joint tax-filer households, would be eligible.
In addition, individuals with an income of below $61,000 could get an additional $5,000 rebate.
Thus a couple with an annual income of $50,000 could get $12,500 on a new electric vehicle or $10,000 on a used one.
Such a magnitude could motivate more individuals and families to move on from their combustion engine cars, said state Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, the new chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
“I think most Washingtonians are considering an electric vehicle for either now or in the future. I think the sticker price is what is holding people back,” said Liias, who was on hand for the governor’s announcement.
In addition, buyers could still take advantage of the state’s sales and use tax exemption for alternative fuel and certain plug-in hybrids. That exemption is for vehicles sold or valued at $45,000 or less if new and $30,000 or less if used.
Inslee also wants to speed up electrification of the state ferry fleet with an infusion of $324 million from the general fund rather than the transportation budget, which is the traditional source of dollars for ferry construction.
A chunk of the money would be used to fully pay for the state’s first 144-car hybrid electric ferry. Another portion would go to build a second 144-car hybrid electric and convert a Jumbo Mark II vessel to hybrid electric.
Inslee’s also looking to expand clean building requirements and bolster the workforce for clean energy jobs, and he said his plan looks to reduce the state’s annual emissions by 6 million metric tons a year in order to hit targets set in state law.
“Climate change is moving faster and therefore we must move faster,” Inslee said at a news conference. “We have to up our game.”
Inslee’s climate proposal also looks to do the following:
• Require all new construction that begins in 2034 to reduce energy use by 80%, use all-electric equipment and appliances, implement electrical panel capacity and wiring for solar panels, and incorporate electric vehicle charging and battery storage.
• Allow consumer-owned utilities to use ratepayer funds for incentive programs to switch customers from fossil fuels like gas to electric space and water heating. Currently, only investor-owned and co-op utilities are the only utilities allowed to offer such programs.
• Provide $100 million in grants for installing solar energy systems. School districts, nonprofits housing authorities, and local and tribal governments would be among those eligible to receive aid.
• Create an Office of Climate Commitment Accountability to work with state agencies.
• Expand air quality monitoring in communities that disproportionately have dealt with effects of pollution because of their proximity to ports or highways.
The overall price tag for Inslee’s climate proposals is $626 million, which he said would come out of existing state revenue.
Inslee’s proposals drew criticism from different quarters Monday.
“Despite proposing hundreds of millions of dollars in additional spending, none of the governor’s proposals today will reduce additional CO2 emissions,” Todd Myers, environmental director for the Washington Policy Center, said in a statement. “Every policy — from subsidizing solar panels, to subsidizing electric vehicles — duplicates an existing policy. They are expensive but add nothing.”
Monday’s announcement was the first of a handful of policy announcements ahead of Inslee releasing his state supplemental budget Thursday. The Democrat-controlled House and Senate will each present their own budget proposals during the 60-day legislative session that begins Jan. 10.
Associated Press writer Rachel La Corte and Herald writer Jerry Cornfield contributed.
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