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Supporters Hope Bipartisan Bill Starts Carbon-Tax Discussion In Utah And Nationally

Screenshot/The Carbon Tax Center
The Carbon Tax Center assessed the obstacles to enacting carbon taxes state-by-state.

A trio of lawmakers from both parties proposed a bill that would have made Utah the first state in the nation to enact a carbon tax.

Sponsoring Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, teamed up with GOP lawmakers to propose a $10-per-ton tax on carbon emissions, the pollution blamed for climate change.

“We’re not growing government here," he said. "We’re simply making the tax system smarter by taxing things we don’t want — which is pollution — for providing tax reductions for poor and middle-income Utahns and for certain businesses.”

Cosponsored by GOP Representatives Dixon Pitcher of Ogden and Becky Edwards of North Salt Lake, the bill never got a hearing before lawmakers ended their 2018 session. But Briscoe said Republicans can embrace the idea, because it’s market-based and revenue from it would be used to reduce other taxes.

Climate activist, Nick Huey, a BYU student, was pleased to see conservatives joining the climate fight.

He called a bipartisan approach to climate change “really cool — especially in a Republican-heavy state. It really allows Utah to really be leader in that discussion.”

“There are carbon taxes being introduced in probably 7 other states right now,” he added. “But Utah is the only one that has bipartisan support.”

Supporters of the bill said they’ll be promoting their carbon tax idea until the next Utah General Session next January.

“We’ve got a bill ready,” Briscoe said. “We can make some modifications as we discuss it over the summer, and there is interest. People are willing to talk. They’re willing to discuss it with us.”

A group called the Carbon Tax Center has said it would be “very challenging” to pass a carbon tax in four Mountain West States — Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. In Colorado, it would just be “challenging.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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