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Stand-up comedian and activist speaks on new carbon emission tax initiative

Bellingham community members and Western students gathered to improve their understanding of the new carbon tax initiative, I-732, in Arntzen Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 30,

Carbon Washington (CarbonWA) founder and self described “stand-up economist” Yoram Bauman was the key speaker at the event. His talk touched on both climate change and the newly introduced initiative to tax carbon emissions in a “stand-up comedian” style, mixing jokes with facts, so that they were more understandable.

The initiative would have both economic and environmental impacts. In terms of economics, it would put more taxes on carbon and fossil fuels, including gasolines. It would also reduce other taxes, including the sales tax and the business and occupation tax (a tax put on businesses in Washington state).

“Most households will end up paying a few hundred dollars a year more for fossil fuels and a few hundred dollars a year less for anything else,” Bauman said.

CarbonWA expects the revenue of taxing carbon emissions from I-732 will reduce the sales tax from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent. It will also reduce the business and occupation tax from 0.44 percent of gross receipts to 0.01 percent.

The initiative will help 400,000 households with low income by providing tax rebates up to $1,500 a year for each family or individual, according to CarbonWA’s website.

From the environmental perspective, the effects of I-732 will encourage people to use cleaner renewable energy, which can help reduce the effect on catastrophic climate change.

I-732 is based on the revenue-neutral carbon tax, which taxes on greenhouse gas emissions, implemented in British Columbia in 2008. The total use of fossil fuels in British Columbia has dropped since then, and the new car sales data in British Columbia since 2001 indicates the increase of purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles, according to the website of British Columbia Ministry of Finance.

Bauman believes that the policies in British Columbia have been very successful.

“As an economist, I would say it’s the best kind of policy in the world,” Bauman said.

Students at the event were thankful for the clarity that Bauman gave.

“It’s always good to hear the details of what the initiative is, like the exact details,” Senior Marika Weber said.

Junior Ben Larson was one of the student volunteers, and said I-732 feels significant to the issue of tackling carbon emissions.

“I’m tired of waiting around for the real climate change policy to happen,” he said. “I think I-732 really offers an opportunity that really makes something happen.”

For I-732 to be put on the Nov. 2016 ballot, a total of 330,000 signatures are required by Nov. 2015. As of now, CarbonWA has collected 237,000 signatures, Bauman said.

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