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Carbon tax initiative receives enough signatures to reach Legislature

An initiative that would put a tax on carbon emissions from fossil fuels in Washington has received enough certified signatures to reach the Legislature.

Initiative 732, backed by a group called Carbon WA, would implement $25 per metric ton tax on carbon emissions from fossil fuels, gasoline and natural gas. Supporters claim it would be revenue neutral because it also reduces the state sales tax by 1 percent and cuts the business and occupation tax for manufacturers. The initiative would fund the Working Families Rebate for low-income families.

That initiative was certified on Tuesday, despite having the highest signature error rate in “at least 25 years,” according to David Ammons, the communications director at the Office of Secretary of State. A random 3 percent check of the 363,126 signatures submitted revealed a nearly 28 percent error rate, Ammons said.

To reach the Legislature, an initiative needs at least 246,372 signatures. Legislators may either pass the initiative as-is or put it on the statewide ballot to be voted on this fall. They may also decide to send it to ballot with their own legislative alternative.

I-732 drew attention in December when a state analysis done by legislative staff shows the “revenue neutral” proposal would cost the state $675 million over four years. Carbon WA said they expect the initiative to be revenue-neutral or possibly revenue-positive — either way, they said it won’t cost the state money. The group issued a response to the analysis, which they said corrects problems in the report that made the results appear revenue-negative.