Carbon proposals threaten state transportation budget

Improving Washington’s infrastructure and transportation system is a top priority for state legislators on both sides of the aisle. This is good news for people who work in the manufacturing and transportation industries and lends an opportunity to create jobs in the state. The one thing that may derail a transportation package is the inclusion of new hidden energy taxes, such as a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS): It would increase fuel prices and cost hardworking Washingtonians their jobs.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s goal to decrease carbon emissions from all transportation vehicles through a low-carbon fuel standard and to charge “big polluters” through a carbon cap-and-trade system has worthy intent, but in practice would simply be detrimental to middle-income workers. The costs and taxes will be passed down directly to businesses and to every consumer in the state, not to mention lowering our state’s competitiveness with states that don’t impose such standards.

Gov. Inslee’s energy proposals sound nice, but this plan places idealism over realism, and the best interests of Washington jobs and economy. Everyone in Washington is committed to reducing pollution and preserving our environment, yet these proposals will not make any sort of a measurable impact. Carbon emissions are a global issue, so unless the same standards are imposed worldwide or at least nationwide this proposal will do nothing but harm our state’s workers. Imposing new energy taxes will only serve as a sure way to repel new and run out existing companies (and jobs) from Washington. A recent study by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) found the implementation of Gov. Inslee’s full energy agenda could cost 11,000 jobs.

The price tag is real. In fact, the hike in fuel prices alone will be enough to deter transportation jobs. Gas prices are low now, but we know they’ll rise again; so if this proposal is implemented the increase will hit hard. Look no further than California to see the impact. The state has a cap-and-trade system and recently began implementing a low-carbon fuel standard — just like the one Gov. Inslee is considering. Take a look at the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s fuel cost tracker and you’ll see that Washington benefits far more from dramatic decreases in gas prices than California. Just one month before California included gas and diesel in their cap on Jan. 1, Californians paid just 3 cents more per gallon than us; today they pay 61 cents more per gallon.

Gov. Inslee’s own administration has said that if his energy agenda is fully implemented, gas prices could rise by up to almost $1.50. Shouldn’t we wait to see how California’s energy agenda plays out fully, before even considering a similar one here? The transportation bill currently being considered in the Legislature already contains increased fuel taxes to fund infrastructure improvements. These taxes would go toward rebuilding our roads, bridges and decaying infrastructure; providing great family middle-wage jobs for our workers as well. We need a transportation package, that’s why our labor organization fully supports a transportation package bill that the Legislature will consider in the coming days.

We need to proceed deliberatively and carefully, the impact and uncertainty the governor’s climate proposals will cause is far too great of a gamble. Increases in energy and fuel costs threaten the transportation industry’s ability to compete and hire new or pay existing employees.

The reality in Washington today is that our transportation needs outweigh the limited benefits of both the cap-and-trade and a low-carbon fuel standard, however noble their intent. Our governor was elected to first and foremost protect and consider the wellbeing of our residents and the economy. A bag full of new and hidden energy costs and taxes are not the answer to solve this global problem.

Herb Krohn is the state legislative director for SMART-Transportation Division; formerly know as the United Transportation Union.

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