Vote ‘Yes’ on Initiative 732

As a Native American I have always felt like I was one with land.

Growing up, the elders would always remind us to respect the land, and to not abuse our privileges by taking more than we need.

These same morals and principles apply when it comes to the issue of climate change, specifically with Initiative 732, Washington State’s proposed carbon tax.

I-732 was proposed by Carbon Washington, a grassroots group that encourages clean energy over fossil fuels.

“(It) will be the largest business progressive shift in our state tax system in 40 years, since (the state) eliminated the sales tax on grocery store foods,” said Mike Massa, an engineering professional with Carbon Washington.

If the initiative is passed this November, revenue garnered from the carbon tax will be offset by a one percent decrease on retail sales tax.

The rate would drop from the current 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent.

In that way, Massa explained, I-732 “is a tax swap, not a tax increase.”

“Most families will spend a couple hundred dollars more a year on energy, but they will save a couple hundred dollars a year on everything else,” Massa said.

In addition to the one percent decrease on retails sales tax, there are two other components to I-732.

First, it shows consideration for manufacturers, who use high amounts of energy from fossil fuels and have to compete with an out of state market, by giving them a cut on business tax.

Effectively, it would be offsetting the carbon tax for the business tax.

Second, if it’s passed, the state will be implementing a “low-income working family’s rebate”, which would give back an estimated $1,500 a year to nearly 450,000 low-income working families.

The later part is what stands out most to me. Coming from a low-income family and growing up during the recession, where the economy crashed and gas prices jumped, I witnessed first-hand the struggle that my parents went through.

Massa explained that this rebate will do more than just help working families breakeven: analysis shows it will actually help put them ahead.

This is a beneficial addition to the initiative. A lot of times families are stuck in a financial rut and, if passed, this will give those families an opportunity to prosper.

With every tax proposal, there are people who, and rightfully so, think that it’s just another way to fund our government officials’ next vacation to Hawaii.

But I-732 is different: as a tax swap, the same amount of money is being returned to the economy as before the tax was implemented.

So knowing the economy won’t be affected, we can start taking a look at the heart of the issue, which is climate change and its long term effects on the environment.

In recent years, Washington State has lost a substantial amount of crop revenue due to drought and wildfires.

In the summer of 2015 alone, wildfires burned over 1 million acres and cost Washington over $178 million to fight, according to a report from the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, rising temperatures have caused an earlier snowmelt than in previous decades, causing forests to remain drier longer, a prime condition for wildfires.

Factored in with the enormous hazard greenhouse emission has on our environment, there is evidence that pollution causes health issues, such as asthma and heart disease.

Taxing for carbon emissions creates an incentive for using less fossil-fuel and for developing cleaner-energy methods.

“(I-732 is about) raising taxes on things we don’t want, like pollution, and lowering taxes on things that we do want, like retail sales tax,” Massa said.

Massa acknowledges that, as of now, we are reliant on the usage of fossil fuels because it has high energy density, it’s abundant and it’s comparatively inexpensive.

But there needs to be a replacement, which will come in the form of better technology.

Massa suggested that a carbon tax will encourage engineers to find ways to increase the density of electricity in batteries and to find methods of producing biofuels from non-food crops, which would also translate to more jobs in that industry.

“The solution to greenhouse gas reduction is electrification of transportation — moving to electric vehicles with clean energy,” Massa said.

Though the carbon tax is projected to raise gas prices by 25 cents a gallon, discouragement at the pumps might not be a bad thing. Less driving means less pollution — walking or biking is better for you anyway.

According to Carbon Washington, our state would be the first to implement a revenue-neutral carbon tax in the country.

I feel as someone who really cares about the environment and future generations, it’s my obligation to continue to encourage what my Native American ancestors have passed on for centuries — protecting the land.

This culture doesn’t just have to belong to Natives. It’s up to us as citizens of the world to take care of the environment, for ourselves and our children.

Let Washington set the trend. Vote yes on I-732.

Editor’s note: This column is part of a head-to-head series. Read the other side here.

Edmund Frazer Myer is a senior communication major from Onalaska. He is enrolled in the Chehalis Tribe. He can be contacted at 335-2290 or by opinion@dailyevergreen.com. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of The Office of Student Media.