Op-ed: Maintain State’s Transportation Network with a Carbon Tax

Bringing a carbon tax to Washington state could provide the funds we need to maintain our transportation infrastructure, according to guest columnists Yoram Bauman and Ian Siadak.By Yoram Bauman and Ian Siadak | Special to The Seattle Times

We have a transportation problem. The governor’s Connecting Washington report identified a maintenance shortfall of almost $800 million per year over the next 10 years just to keep roads, bridges and ferries in safe working order.

We have a climate problem. Carbon concentrations in the atmosphere continue to rise, and the scientific consensus about the risks of global warming continues to build.

We can fix both problems at the same time. Economists from across the political spectrum agree that putting a price on carbon is the most effective and efficient way to reduce carbon emissions. British Columbia has proved them right: In the past few years our northern neighbor has reduced its carbon-dioxide emissions by 5 percent, and its economy has outperformed the rest of Canada.

The credit goes to the pioneering carbon tax that B.C. introduced in 2008. Businesses and individuals who burn fossil fuels now pay a tax of $30 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, and the provincial government uses the $1.2 billion in annual revenue to reduce existing taxes.

Bringing a similar carbon tax to Washington state could provide the funds we need to maintain our transportation infrastructure. In fact, a B.C.-style carbon tax would generate about $2.3 billion per year. Just half of that would be sufficient to not only fill the transportation maintenance shortfall but also restore transit funding and help provide the K-12 school-bus funding stipulated by the state Supreme Court.

Yoram Bauman, left, is an environmental economist and a fellow at Sightline Institute in Seattle. Ian Siadak is a Sightline intern.Read the full op-ed here.  Source:  Yoran Bauman and Ian Siadak,  Seattle Times, January 4, 2013.