Our nation and our world face an undeniable climate crisis. We are already experiencing firsthand the impacts. Childhood asthma rates have soared, and many of our neighbors have lost or seen significant damage to their homes from climate change induced storms.
I applaud the Governor and the Legislature for leadership toward making Massachusetts a national leader in energy efficiency and environmental conservation, and toward adapting to the realities of climate change.
But we need to go further. I believe that one crucial step we can take as a Commonwealth is to enact comprehensive environmental tax reform. As it currently stands, we heavily subsidize pollution by neglecting to charge for the true cost of harmful emissions. It is time to end those subsidies.
Our economy should align with our values. As it is written today, our tax system puts more of a burden on the activities we want to encourage – work and investment – than it puts on pollution. By levying a tax on harmful carbon dioxide emitted into our air, we can raise enough revenue to reduce the income and sales tax burdens for Massachusetts families and small businesses.
And the benefits don’t end there. We don’t need to choose between strengthening our economy and protecting our environment. Studies have shown that commonsense environmental tax reform will actually increase jobs and add to our economy; it will create over 10,000 jobs in Massachusetts and increase our state’s GDP by $450 million per year while reducing our carbon emissions by up to 12 percent. And, we can do that without adding to the cost of living for the average Massachusetts family.
Indeed, we would pay a far higher cost for inaction. And that burden will fall on those least able to bear it, since climate change disproportionately impacts lower-income families and communities of color.
Massachusetts is uniquely positioned to step forward and enact comprehensive environmental tax reform. We have the political will to be a national leader. We were the first state to make health care a human right, the first state to say you can marry the person you love, and our energy policy is far ahead of much of the rest of the country.
Change is always difficult, and we can count on special interest groups rooting for us to fail. But with the leadership of a bold, progressive Governor – the kind of Governor I pledge to be, we can keep leading the nation in responsible, forward-looking public policy.