Businesses join support for Washington carbon tax measure

Gov. Inslee signs capital budget, water bill

Microsoft Corp., REI, environmental groups and others are backing efforts by Gov. Jay Inslee to tax fossil fuel emissions to fight climate change.

Inslee has proposed a new tax of $20 per metric ton of carbon emissions that would start in 2019 and increase annually by 3.5 percent over inflation.

Money raised would pay for programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, manage stormwater and reduce wildfire risks. Some money would offset taxes to energy-intensive businesses and help low-income families.

If the Legislature doesn’t act on a carbon policy during the 60-day session, a coalition of environmental, labor and other groups vow to move ahead with a citizen’s initiative this November.

With that prospect looming, some businesses told lawmakers at a hearing Tuesday they would prefer to work through the legislative process.

Previous plans to charge a fee for carbon pollution did not gain traction in the Legislature, including last year, and in 2016 voters rejected a ballot measure on a carbon tax.