OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee made a forceful push Tuesday for a carbon tax in his annual state of the state address, calling it "our destiny" and "the right thing to do" to curb climate change.
Former Vice President Al Gore praised, Inslee for his effort tweeting, "I applaud the leadership demonstrated today by my friend @GovInslee & Washington state with the announcement of a plan to reduce carbon emissions & embrace the Sustainability Revolution through carbon pricing. #WeGotThis"
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg also expressed his support for Inslee saying, "Thanks to the leadership of Governor @JayInslee, Washington's new carbon pricing legislation is a win-win, cutting carbon pollution, building climate resilience, and supporting workers—all while delivering on @AmericasPledge."
Under bills introduced in the House and Senate Tuesday, a proposed tax of $20 per metric ton of carbon emissions would start on July 1, 2019 and increase annually by 3.5 percent over inflation.
The tax would raise about $1.5 billion over the first two years and an estimated $3.3 billion over the next four years.
Half of the money from the tax — which would be paid by power plants and fuel importers but would ultimately affect consumers — would go into efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as programs to expand opportunities for renewable energy at both homes and utilities, and research of clean energy technology. An additional 35 percent would go into flood management and storm water infrastructure, and would also be used to reduce risks of wildfires.
"We know. We are smart enough to recognize the perils of climate change. And we know, we are innovated enough to do something about it," Inslee said.
In his speech, Inslee said business, tribal, environmental and labor interests will be part of the conversation and that urban and rural areas would benefit from such a tax. Republicans, who this year are in the minority in the House and Senate, have been cool to the idea of a carbon tax. Some Democrats are skeptical as well.
Democratic House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said that while nothing is off the table, there are a diversity of opinions surrounding the tax within his caucus.
"It's a challenge," he said. "There's no question about it."
Even with the possibility of an initiative to the people looming, Sullivan said it would take consensus between lawmakers and various advocacy groups to get something through in a short 60-day session.
In a press conference after the speech, Republican leaders from the House and Senate criticized the costs that consumers could face under such a plan.
Policy staff for Inslee said that the impact on consumers from the tax would range from a 4 to 5 percent increase in electricity, a 9 to 11 percent increase in natural gas, and a 6 to 9 percent increase in gasoline.
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said after the speech that the proposal "is about new and higher taxes, it's not about fixing the problem."