2-in-1 Climate Solution: Governor Jay Inslee’s ‘Sin Tax’ Benefits Both Air Quality and Education

Governor Jay Inslee is proposing an innovative, yet practical, two-in-one solution which advances tough new air-quality policies while directing $1.3 billion of new polluter-pay revenues to Washington’s underfunded schools. By focusing on “the education of your children” and the worsening health problems that are caused by pollution – like asthma in children, Inslee effectively steers clear of the politically-charged partisan debate about climate change.

Inslee’s plan to link carbon emissions and air pollution to money for education is reminiscent of our nation’s politically popular, long-lasting taxes on alcohol and tobacco. By framing pollution as sin-tax worthy, Inslee is packaging the policy in a way that is more palatable to the general public. Likewise, by investing the funds in bread-and-butter programs like education and transportation, he is promising to deliver a savvy “win-win” for Washington’s communities. He takes care to speak about his cap and trade plan in language and terms (like “market-based”) that resonate with a broad contingent of people, and perhaps most especially with parents and families. Because, as Inslee puts it, it’s not about the flowers, it’s about our kids’ lungs. Stay tuned.

Washington Governor Puts Focus on Climate Goals, and Less on Debate

By Kirk Johnson | The New York Times  | April 4, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. — In his office, Gov. Jay Inslee keeps a framed image of a stand of magenta paintbrush, an alpine meadow flower and a signature species in Washington, that he photographed while hiking with his wife in Olympic National Park. The magenta paintbrush is threatened by global warming, and the photograph is a reminder, Mr. Inslee said, of all the things that are at risk.

But then he paused and said, no, a beautiful blossom was not the point: The deeper reason he is pushing for tough new air-quality policies is to combat worsening health problems, like asthma in children, that are caused by pollution.

“It’s not the flowers,” he said. “It’s kids’ lungs.”

The line encapsulates Mr. Inslee’s practical approach to advancing one of the most ambitious environmental programs in the country. He has proposed collecting a new charge on emissions from oil refineries, power plants and other industries that would reap an estimated $1.3 billion in the first year. But in contrast to similar systems in California and the Northeast, energy experts said, Mr. Inslee’s plan would use most of the new revenue for education and transportation rather than on climate or energy projects.

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