Wednesday evening over 400 people attended the hearings in Seattle organized by the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup. It seems that most of attendees wanted to testify. People were chosen at random, by number, and the numbers chosen ranged has high as the low 400s. My number did not come up. Here is the testimony I prepared:
I’m asking you to work towards the passage of a carbon tax, so that the price of fossil fuels reflects the real cost to our state and to the planet.
However, the devil is in the details.
My main concern is that a carbon tax is regressive, disproportionately affecting the poor and the middle class.
I realize that there are plans to offset the carbon tax with lowered sales tax and B&O tax. But both those taxes are regressive as well: the sales tax obviously so, and the B&O tax because it is based on revenue not profit and so especially affects small and growing business that have not yet become profitable.
If the state is going to make major changes to the tax system — and a carbon tax swap is that — then why limit ourselves to swapping two regressive taxes with another regressive tax? Such a tax swap would lower carbon emission but it would perpetuate our regressive tax system which has been deemed by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy to be the most regressive tax system in the nation.
Whether or not the carbon tax results in a revenue neutral package of changes, I ask that when you revise taxes for Washington State you also deal with this central issue: the extreme regressivity of our tax system. For example, institute a tax on capital gains. Why should the rich pay less in state taxes than the poor as a percentage of income? It’s an outrage!
Please appoint a high level commission to research the issue and make recommendations. And please educate the public about this topic. Be a leader on this issue, not just a follower. Thank you.
The next CLEW hearing is December 6, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. at the House Hearing Room A, State Capitol Campus Olympia.
For more information on this topic see Let’s fix our unfair tax system in Washington State, where you can sign a petition to Gov. Inslee and the legislators.