Citing ‘Climate Crisis,’ Massachusetts Gov. Candidate Berwick Calls For Carbon Tax

CREDIT: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

In this July 13, 2013 photo, Don Berwick, candidate for Massachusetts governor, speaks at the state Democratic Convention in Lowell, Mass.

One of the lesser-known Democratic candidates for Massachusetts governor, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Don Berwick, is calling for his state to become the first in the nation to establish a tax on carbon emissions.

In a Tuesday post on political commentary site Blue Mass Group, Berwick said an “undeniable climate crisis” was one of the driving factors in his decision to support a carbon tax. However, he also proposed replacing taxes on pollution with cuts in property and income taxes — something he said could increase Massachusetts’ GDP by $450 million per year.

“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,” Berwick wrote. “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.”

Berwick’s announcement is the latest in a string of statements by candidates for the state’s highest office in support of various environmental measures including a carbon tax and cap-and-trade system, signalling the race may have a strong focus on climate-related issues.

Out of the five Democratic candidates for Massachusetts governor, Berwick is actually one of three that has expressed support for a tax on carbon pollution. Biotech executive Joe Avellone has said that he would support a revenue neutral carbon tax if elected, meaning there would be corresponding reductions in personal or corporate income taxes, and Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem told MassLive that she would also support a carbon tax, “as long as it can be done in a revenue neutral way and does not have a disparate impact on car-dependent communities.”

The leading contender for the Democratic nomination — current Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley — has not publicly come out in support of taxing pollution, telling MassLive that she’s “not sure it’s the only solution” to climate change. Coakley has in the past, however, voiced support for a national cap-and-trade program.

Berwick has also expressed support for a mandatory cap and trade carbon emissions control system, and has said he would double the state’s investment in clean energy from 0.6 percent of the budget to 1.2 percent.

A tax on carbon emissions would be win for environmentalists and those concerned about climate change. According to a November study from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a carbon tax is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions. Indeed, if the U.S. itself were to impose a carbon tax of $25 per ton of emissions, it would cut the deficit by $1 trillion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.