Washington utility rebate proposal to support low-income families

Low-income Washingtonians could get a $200 credit for utility payments this year, courtesy of the state's Climate Commitment Act

Essentially, it’s giving Washingtonians back a bit of money from a piece of legislation that has been very lucrative for the state, generating well over a billion dollars last year. 

The rebates will go to low-income residents.

The House version of the proposal would hand out the credits on Oct. 15 of this year, just weeks before Election Day, and then again in Feb. 2025.

But the February rebate will only go out if voters keep the Climate Commitment Act.

There is an initiative right now to repeal the Climate Commitment Act on the November ballot. Since its passage in 2021, it’s been a contentious issue, with some blaming it for record-high gas prices last year.

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FOX 13 News asked Representative Joe Fitzgibbon on Tuesday whether the rebate was a way to placate voters by convincing them not to repeal the act.

"We're just trying to be upfront with Washingtonians about what the impacts of this repeal would be. There are many things that would no longer be funded if the Climate Commitment Act is repealed. Traffic safety improvements, salmon recovery improvements, improvements in wildfire prevention and wildfire suppression," Rep. Fitzgibbon said.

Critics say the environmental efforts are understandable, but some say the burden on working Washingtonians is too high, considering what they are calling minimal results in reducing carbon.

"We understand that there are environmental needs, but the carbon tax has been far more expensive than anybody anticipated, and yes, there are needs. What we need to do is prioritize things," said Todd Myers with conservative think-tank Washington Policy Center.

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Myers also says the February payments should not be contingent on how people vote. Since the state has already collected the money, and it would just go back into the general fund if people don’t get the rebates in February.

"If they want to do this, it's about helping people and not politics, make sure checks go out in December of 2024, so there is no impact on politics, and it’s not contingent on how people vote," said Myers.

There is a Senate version of this proposal that does not have any contingencies.

The House and Senate will have to work out a compromise to come up with how they will implement the rebates.

Meanwhile, the effort to repeal the Climate Commitment Act is I-2117.

It is one of six ballots heading to the November ballot. Democrats say they will not discuss the initiatives trying to repeal the Climate Commitment Act, capital gains tax and long term care tax. But they have decided to talk about three other initiatives. Those include I-2111 addressing income tax, I-2081 on parental rights, and I-2113 dealing with police pursuits.

Lawmakers have the option to come up with alternative measures to compete with these initiatives or just adopt them as is. If adopted, they would be a big win for the conservative PAC Lets Go Washington, which is behind those initiatives.