Carbon Tax Advocates Face Setbacks In The U.S. & Elsewhere

It’s been a rough winter for carbon tax supporters and cap & trade advocates, both in the U.S. and abroad. A regional cap and trade plan for 12 northeastern and mid-Atlantic states is falling apart due to lack of support, pending carbon tax state legislation is struggling to achieve passage even in a blue state legislature with only six Republican members, and the Court of Appeal in Alberta recently ruled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax to be unconstitutional (the Supreme Court of Canada will render a final decision on the tax in March).

The latest setback for the greens comes in Oregon where, despite Democrat-control of state government, Republican legislators have, thus far, blocked passage of cap & trade legislation, doing so for a second straight year by staying away from the state capitol building in Salem, thereby denying quorum needed to pass legislation. This is obviously not the optimal way to block a bill, but it’s the only option Republican members of the Oregon House and Senate have left. One Republican is needed to restore quorum in the Oregon House, and two GOP members are needed in the Senate. This past week Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and fellow Oregon House Democrats took legal action to force their Republican colleagues to return to the Capitol, “issuing subpoenas to 21 state representatives that would compel them to explain their disappearing act from Salem,” Oregon Capital Bureau’s Claire Withycombe reported on Friday, February 28. “A process server has been hired to track down the missing Republicans and deliver their subpoenas,” Withycombe added. “If they obeyed, the representatives would have to appear before the Democratically controlled House Rules Committee on Thursday, March 5.” “We will not be intimidated,” Oregon House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) said in a February 28 statement. “We remain resolved to serve the hardworking families of Oregon who have asked for the abuse of power to end and for cap and trade to be referred to the people.” Leader Drazan called Speaker Kotek’s subpoenas “just the latest example of the majority party’s strong-arm tactics designed to end negotiations.” Speaker Kotek’s Democratic counterpart in the Oregon Legislature’s upper chamber, Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem), has not indicated an intention to issue similar subpoenas to the 11 absent Republican senators. Oregon Governor Kate Brown (D), also a cap & trade supporter, could order state troopers to track down legislative Republicans but has not yet indicated she is ready to do so. Republican members of the Oregon Legislature are asking that cap & trade be referred to the ballot so that voters can decide on the proposal, which would drive up prices for gas, utilities, and inflate the overall cost of living in Oregon. “In the end, Oregonians need to have a say on this issue,” Representative Greg Smith (R-Hepper) said. “They need to be able to vote yes or no on it.” The fact the cap and trade acts as a regressive tax increase is why California is the only state in the U.S. to have enacted the scheme and why a similar proposal is currently being rejected in Democrat-controlled states across the northeast. Under cap & trade, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu explained in rejecting a similar proposal for his state this past December, “rural communities would be left at a severe disadvantage…as drivers will bear the brunt of the artificially higher gas prices.” Governor Sununu, who has an environmental engineering degree from MIT, calls cap & trade a boondoggle and his spokesman described it as “a huge hit to the wallets of rural drivers.” “While popular services like Amazon have made more goods easily accessible to rural residents than ever before, all of these goods are shipped by diesel freight trucks,” writes Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. Craney also notes how cap & trade, in addition to raising the price of fuel, would have a trickle-down cost-increasing effect, as “heavily taxed fuels would not only make it more expensive to take the lengthy trip to the store, but would also increase costs of all other deliveries and goods in the state.” New Hampshire was the first state whose officials rejected the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), the regional cap & trade program championed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R). TCI proponents acknowledge that their proposal could drive up the price of gas by as much as 17 cents per gallon in a region where transportation emissions are already projected to decline over the next decade even without any action from policymakers. While New Hampshire was the first TCI state to see officials reject cap & trade, Virginia, despite Democrat-control of the statehouse, is the latest TCI state where lawmakers have indicated they will not implement the program, at least not this year. “During recent legislative hearings, Virginia Delegate Charles Poindexter got two members of Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D-Va.) cabinet on record promising that the General Assembly will decide whether the state joins TCI, but likely not until 2021,” the Boston Herald’s Mark Markos reported on February 13. “Higher costs for less available fuel would devastate Virginians, especially poorer and rural Virginians on whom the tax’s impact would be disproportionate and who have little alternative to motor vehicles,” Christian Braunlich, president of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, wrote in a letter published in the February 27 edition of the Washington Post. “The region’s motorists cannot pay enough additional taxes to reverse decades of human settlement patterns and fund all the mass transit, bike lanes and walking trails needed to get drivers out of their cars and trucks,” Braunlich added. Back in Oregon, despite the pressure and subpoenas from Democrats, Republican members of the Oregon Legislature are receiving positive feedback from their constituents for their decision to block cap & trade. “We have 1% of the total U.S. emissions,” Senator Bill Hansell (R-Athena) said, adding that Oregon represents one tenth of 1% of global emissions. “This will not reduce carbon, but only raise taxes,” Senator Hansell said of the cap & trade bill pending in Oregon, adding that “it does not make sense.” The Oregon Legislature’s 2020 session is scheduled to adjourn on Sunday, March 8. The winner of the Democratic Party presidential nomination may not be known on that day, but it will be known whether another proposal to drive up the cost of energy once again fails, even in a Democrat-dominated blue state.   This article appeared on the Forbes website at https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickgleason/2020/02/29/carbon-tax-advocates-face-setbacks-in-the-us–elsewhere/#1f85a2438a4c]]>

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