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Lawmakers propose sending drivers a refund check to offset carbon tax

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(The Center Square) – Drivers would get a fuel rebate check under a new proposal filed in the Washington State Legislature.

Rep. April Connors, R-Kennewick, and Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, have introduced House Bill 2040, also known as the Carbon Auction Rebate, or CAR.

It would use the $1.3 billion in excess revenue collected under the state’s new cap-and-trade carbon allowance auctions to distribute a one-time payment to 6.8 million registered vehicle owners in Washington.

The carbon auctions, which started this year, are part of the Climate Commitment Act that was signed into law in 2021. The auctions were anticipated to bring in $574 million. The state has collected approximately $2 billion from this year’s carbon auctions.

“It’s not enough from what people have had to pay for gas prices, but it’s something,” Connors said of HB 2040.

Connors added that “for a household with two vehicles it would amount to about $360 in the form of a check mailed out in July.”

According to some estimates, the carbon tax has added about 50 cents to the cost of a gallon gasoline in the Evergreen State.

Mike Faulk, Gov. Jay Inslee’s spokesperson, defended the carbon auctions.

“Climate Commitment Act funds come from the state’s biggest polluters, who for the first time ever are paying for the damage they cause, not the public at large,” he emailed The Center Square.

“These companies pocketed $200 billion in profit in 2022,” he said. “They’ve been polluting for free and passing billions of dollars in climate damages on to all of us.”

Money from the carbon auctions is being put to good use, according to Faulk.

He noted that “revenue from polluters – not a tax on Washingtonians – is reinvested in our communities and households. It pays for free transit for youth under 18, heat pumps and cost-saving weatherization improvements for thousands of low-income households, electric school buses, and attracts jobs to Washington.”

Faulk pointed out that Inslee in his 2024 supplemental budget has proposed helping low- and moderate-income households with a $200 utility bill credit with CCA funds.

The CAR bill would not affect the CCA. Nor would it impact investments already made by the Legislature in previous sessions using CCA revenue.

Voter advocacy group Let’s Go Washington has filed an Initiative 2117 to the Legislature to repeal the state’s cap-and-trade law. Assuming I-2117 has sufficient verified signatures, the measure will be certified to appear before the Legislature next session. If the Democratically-controlled Legislature does not approve the measure, it will be certified to appear on the 2024 ballot.

The Legislature will convene for its 60-day regular session on Jan. 8.

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