Hello clean-air-and-climate friends:

Our effort to get on the 2020 ballot fell short, but we’re going to try again for 2022, and to see why you only need to look at the effort to force a referendum on the tax reform bill that was passed last month: the backers of the referendum have an incredibly hard task (the same 116,000 signatures we needed, but they only have 45 days—until next Tuesday—and all of their signatures must be collected by volunteers) and I confess that I’d totally written them off, but fortune favors the brave, and now that Harmon’s and Associated Food Stores and the Utah PTA are on board perhaps they can pull it off. The bottom line is that you never know whether a campaign is going to take off, and if grocery stores are opposed to the tax bill’s effort to increase the sales tax on groceries then perhaps they’ll support a future campaign to use carbon tax revenue to eliminate the sales tax on groceries! (PS. If you want to join the referendum effort then here’s a link, but you might first want to study and think about the bill: it’s complicated, and there are good parts and bad parts. For example, from the perspective of our Clean The Darn Air proposal, the part of the tax reform bill that increases the sales tax on groceries is bad, but the part that adds sales tax to motor fuels is good.)

Looking back on our effort to make the 2020 ballot: We got over 27,000 valid signatures, which means that we talked to tens of thousands of voters and that we have some great data on what we need to do to get past the finish line next time! Many thanks to everyone who volunteered on the campaign, especially the terrific effort by folks in Moab, including 250 Club members Mary Moran and Travis Nauman; folks in Logan, including 250 Club members Al Forsyth, Brad Kropp and Kathy Gantz, Jack Greene, and SOSNR students at USU, plus 1000 Club member Charles Ashurst; and folks in the Ogden/SLC/Provo area, including 250 Club members Anil Seth, Callie Northrup, Graham Goodman, Hillary Carrier, Hillary Craig, Jack Bloom from UCAN, Joel Ban, Joey Cauceglia, Justin Saxton, Kelsey Carston, Madi O’Neal, Ronan Carrier, Sarah and Addie Thacker, and Tim Woodruff, plus 1000 Club members Bob Cieri, Kaitlin McLean, Kelly Kerr, Roger B, and yours truly (Yoram Bauman), plus 5000 Club members Colleen Farmer and Dave Carrier. Thank you!! (And if I’ve accidentally left anybody out then please holler :)

Looking ahead to 2022: In a previous post we laid out two options to get on the Nov 2022 ballot. Option #1 was to file in Feb 2020 (next month!) and gather signatures from earl April to late December of 2020; Option #2 was to file in December 2020 and gather signatures from mid February to early November of 2021. In the past weeks we’ve learned from the Lt Gov’s office that the signature totals needed to make the 2022 ballot will be determined by turn-out in the Nov 2020 election, so that pretty much eliminates Option #1 because we’d be “flying blind”, i.e., collecting signatures without knowing how many we needed until after we’d finished. In addition, it will help to have the rest of this year to explore policy options, so we’ve started that process as well. We’re brainstorming right now, so please chime in with ideas to add to the list below! Comments on the ideas in this list are also welcome via email and/or on the blog, but brainstorming works best without too many critical comments, so try to keep it positive :)

  1. Renewable Portfolio Standard / Clean Electricity Standard: Mandate that (say) 50% of Utah’s electricity come from zero emissions sources by 2030. (Perhaps related to a bill that Rep. Ray Ward is working on?)
  2. Wealth tax or high-income tax to fund clean air and clean energy efforts. (Could also fund tax cuts and/or rural economic development, similar to the proposal we were pushing last year.)
  3. Tax on coal and/or coal-fired power to fund clean air efforts and rural economic development, with a target date of 2030 for having this revenue stream dry up. (This is somewhat similar to the proposal we were pushing last year, but instead of a broad carbon tax there’s just a tax on coal; unlike in that proposal there’s no permanent reduction in existing taxes—because the revenue stream is likely to dry up—but it might be possible to include some temporary tax relief, e.g., funding for an Earned Income Tax Credit match if there’s sufficient revenue.)
  4. Mandate that the state meet the targets from the recent Gardner Institute report (local air pollution 50% below 2017 levels by 2050, CO2 emissions 25% / 50% / 80% below 2005 levels by 2025 / 2030 / 2050) and delegate to Utah Dept of Environmental Quality all the details about how to do it.
  5. Allocate surplus General Fund revenues to public transportation.
  6. Ban new construction of gas hook-ups (as in other locations).
  7. Securitization” to facilitate earlier closure of coal plants.