Venezuela, here we come!
This year we’ve heard plenty about the so-called ‘Green New Deal’ in Washington, D.C. – a radical manifesto that would expand government control over our economy and daily lives, give greater power to activist groups and labor unions, and drive up the cost of just about everything. In Olympia, this isn’t a matter of theory – it’s the Democratic agenda.
One-party control of the Washington Legislature has unleashed the worst impulses of the left, threatening the economic freedoms that are our greatest strength. Never have we seen such an extreme ideology pushed at the statehouse. Coupled with proposals for an income tax and steep increases in business taxes, this agenda aims at nothing less than remaking our economic system. Government mandates and central planning would supersede the power of the marketplace to find least-cost solutions and adjust to changing conditions. Theory trumps reality, contradictions are ignored, and even the most unworkable ideas are justified with rhetoric about “fairness” and “social justice.” The people of Washington offered their opinion last year when they rejected Initiative 1631, a climate-change measure that would have allowed activist groups to dictate state environmental policies. The voters aren’t buying it. But some people think they know better.
In DC, it’s political rhetoric – here, it’s a nightmare
Here are just a few of the state-level proposals that echo the national Green Manifesto.
Meeting 100 percent of electricity demand with renewable and zero-emission sources
- Jay Inslee’s “100-percent renewables” bill (SB 5116/ HB 1211) phases out fossil fuels for electricity – while ignoring grid reliability and costs to consumers. No more coal and natural gas, which provide a quarter of the state’s power. In their place would come a massive and costly expansion of windmills, and possibly other sources of alternative energy. So much for the region’s low power bills — and what happens when the wind doesn’t blow? Call it the 100-percent-guaranteed-brownout bill.
- Meanwhile, other proposals assume sufficient power for a mass switchover to electric cars – while the governor’s budget bill (SB 5154/ HB 1108) contains $750,000 for yet another study of destroying the carbon-free Snake River Dams, which produce 5 percent of Pacific Northwest electricity.
Requiring energy-efficiency retrofits of existing buildings
- SB 5293/HB 1257 would require landlords to pay for costly energy-efficiency retrofits of every large commercial building in the state – meaning higher rents for commercial spaces and apartments. New-home prices awould rise under new, more stringent local building codes allowed by the bill. Would also restrict natural gas heating based on an obsolete analysis of carbon dioxide impacts.
Ensuring green policies ‘promote justice and equity’
- SB 5489 would create a task force composed entirely of activists and state-agency heads to dictate environmental policies in the name of “environmental justice” – a term that can justify just about anything. State agencies would be required to adopt its recommendations. No public input would be required. Businesses and consumers would pay the freight, but would not be represented. Approach is very similar to the just-defeated I-1631.
Mandates to eliminate industrial CO2 emissions
- SB 5971 imposes a $15-a-ton carbon tax, despite public rejection of I-1631. Together with a six-cent gas-tax increase, the measure would drive up the cost of fuel and anything transported by truck, and penalize industries that cannot avoid carbon emissions due to industrial processes.
Promoting zero-emission vehicles
- SB 5412/ HB 1110, the governor’s low-carbon fuel standards proposal, requires refiners and their customers to pay for promotion of electric vehicles, forcing the poor to subsidize the wealthy. The measure also requires refiners to blend fuel with advanced biofuels that are not available in sufficient quantity. Modeled after a California program now facing a feasibility crisis, low carbon fuel standards offer an infinitesimal reduction in carbon emissions, and would cause fuel prices to skyrocket.
Discouraging use of fossil fuels
- SB 5579 attempts to restrict fossil fuel production in the Midwest by limiting permissible vapor pressure in tank cars sent to Washington refineries. Bakken crude would not comply.
Building a “more sustainable” food system
- SB 5693 would require dairy farmers and orchardists to report whether they employ slaves. Grocers and other sellers of agricultural products would be required to disclose on their websites whether their suppliers promote slavery, peonage or human trafficking. When the attorney general’s office perceives a violation, it would be permitted to sue.
Promoting union power
- SB 5326, spiked by its sponsor after public protest, would have banned booth rentals by hairdressers and barbers. It’s part of a long-running effort by unions to discourage independent contracting – if workers are employees, they can be unionized. Never mind that many workers make a better living on their own. Other bills crack down on contractors in a more subtle way – imposing high employment taxes and fixing wages (SB 5690), imposing narrow rules (SB 5513/HB 1515). Only HB 1515 survives, but offers a vehicle to revive other provisions.
- SB 5698/ HB 1817 would restrict most employment at oil refineries to unionized workers.
- SB 5623/ HB 1575 would make it easier for public employee unions to continue collecting dues despite restrictions imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision.
- SB 5295 would all-but-force DSHS contractors to recognize undemocratic “card check” processes, eliminating workers’ ability to vote on whether to be represented.
Providing all people with “high quality health care”
- SB 5526/HB 1523, Inslee’s ”Cascade Care” proposal, would allow people to buy state-subsidized insurance. Low Medicare-style reimbursements would shift costs to employers, increase premiums, destroy the individual market – driving us toward a single-payer system, the ultimate goal.
Public financing that gives government “an ownership stake”
- SB 5949 puts taxpayers at risk by creating a state bank, to serve as a depository for public funds, and to make loans for projects deemed to serve a public purpose. Bypasses commercial and community banks, abandons prudent money management. Study due this interim.