Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) believes that the goal of climate legislation should be to put a “real tax” on polluters and invest the revenues in “green infrastructure” policies that benefit entire communities. After participating in a live online chat with the Wonk Room at her Capitol Hill office (with a grand view of the Capitol Power Plant), Edwards described her thoughts on President Barack Obama’s proposed climate plan to direct most of the pollution revenues into payroll tax credits. Edwards, who represents a majority African-American, middle class district in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., is skeptical that a “check in hand” is better for her constituents than policies that “incentivize and reward communities that would be adversely impacted”:
I think the money actually has to be returned into the policy you want to promote. I’m a skeptic of those kinds of tax cuts anyway, in terms of whether they have real benefit for people. For example, if we’re going to impose taxes, a real tax, a significant tax on polluters, then I think it’s actually important to take that and invest it in the kind of technologies and green buildings and green infrastructure and renewables and conservation and the things you want to promote, because we have to begin to incentivize and to reward communities that would be adversely impacted. That would be better for me and some of my communities than it would be to simply get a tax credit or a tax cut and a check in hand.
Rep. Edwards concluded, “It could mean weatherization, it could mean building green buildings in the community and replacing wetlands, and all of those kind of things that would actually have a broader public benefit and incentive a green infrastructure, rather than incentivizing continued carbon production.”
In his long-term budget plan, President Obama has proposed to return the bulk of an estimated $80 billion a year in revenues generated from auctioning greenhouse pollution permits in a Making Work Pay tax credit, with $15 billion a year dedicated to clean energy investments like those described by Rep. Edwards. Obama’s budget calls for the initiation of the cap and trade system in 2012.