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Everyone knows that Seattle has one of the most highly-educated workforces in the country. That partially explains why we are so stupidly progressive. And although Washington voters have a healthy awareness of the importance of properly educating our children we continue to mandate increased spending on our broken government school system. Voters aren’t very good at math. Actually, it’s not the math so much as the logic that precedes actual math. Even without knowing the exact numbers, I’m pretty sure that if we want smaller class sizes we’ll need to either hire a bunch more teachers or send busloads of our kids to Oregon. But we voted for smaller class sizes without considering how to, you know, pay for it. Now the Governor must find a way to reduce class sizes for public schools by hiring more teachers, administrators and school district staff (apparently the ‘busing to another state’ option is not under consideration). The Gov is taking heat from a court order to increase funding. What’s even harsher is the criticism from The Washington Education Association, sponsor of the initiative to reduce class sizes.
We also need a bunch of money for roads n’ stuff since we already blew the transportation budget on counterproductive passenger trains (It turns out that a certain train line in the works is going to worsen automobile and bus congestion by permanently occupying the heavily-used HOV reversible lanes on the I-90 Lake Washington floating bridge, but that’s another story).
There is enough hilarity in our state budget drama to write a comic soap opera (if only there were funds to produce it), but I’ll try to get to the point. We need cash. We’ve got a Democrat governor who cut his teeth as a State Representative, and then served as our U.S. Representative in Washington (the one back east) for over a decade. For the past two years he has been learning how to be an executive of something. He hasn’t learned much, but he does know how to effortlessly call for revenue enhancers without uttering the T-word. He is loyal to his party and, I think, obtuse enough to serve as a running mate for his party’s 2016 Presidential nominee as a token of a demographic that Democrats are losing touch with (male, white).
As Governor, he has new glasses that make him look smarter.
Where was I? Oh yeah…We need more money, but raising taxes is unpopular. We are desperately in need of an innovative approach, and now we have one! Governor Inslee’s new revenue policy involves a cap-and-trade plan on carbon emissions.
Wait a minute. I thought that the cap-and-trade concept was developed to provide the most environmentally and economically sensible approach to controlling greenhouse gas emissions, the primary driver of global warming. I thought that the whole point was to provide economic incentives for companies to reduce emissions. I thought that it was designed to be revenue neutral.
Does this mean that congressional conservatives were correct about the true motivation behind cap-and-trade schemes being pushed a decade ago?
Was cap-and-trade always just a tool not only for government control, but for taxation too?
Well, yeah…but now it means we get cleaner air AND revenues as a side benefit. Not exactly a free lunch—more of a blue plate special. It’s a little like a cigarette tax on smokestacks. According to Governor Inslee’s new biennial budget proposal, we’re looking at $4.8 billion in cap-and-trade revenue to be provided by the state’s top 130 biggest polluters. I’d be surprised if there are even 130 smokestacks in the whole state, but I’m going to keep an eye out next time I drive past Boeing (which assembles parts fabricated in distant lands), Microsoft, Amazon, Costco, Nordstrom, Starbucks and Washington’s other prominent businesses.
In fairness, I suppose “pollution” doesn’t necessarily imply literal smokestacks. All human activity produces pollution, so those [well-connected] businesses I listed might not even be among the top 130 polluters. But who could possibly object to having the top 130 polluters (whoever they might be) participate in a non-tax that helps pay for more schools (feather in cap for Democrat politicians) and more roads (feather in cap for Republican politicians)?