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Carbon tax ballot initiative unlikely to make it for 2020

Posted at 12:34 PM, Nov 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-25 14:35:02-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Backers of a citizen referendum for a carbon tax to clean up Utah’s dirty air say making it on the 2020 ballot appears to be unlikely.

In an email to supporters over the weekend, the group Clean the Darn Air said they will instead focus on later years.

“We have not been able to get a major donation or other game-changing development, so although we are still gathering some signatures in ‘experimental mode’, we are doing so mostly with an eye on future years because the odds of getting on the 2020 ballot are very long and are getting longer by the day,” the group said.

The ballot initiative would have imposed a tax on fuel and other carbon emissions and used the money to fund air quality initiatives and rural Utah economic development. Volunteers spent the summer at public events gathering signatures in an effort to qualify for next year’s ballot.

But in the email and a subsequent blog post, Clean the Darn Air’s Yoram Bauman acknowledged some delays in getting signature packets ready. The group said it found success on college campuses and major venues and got a quarter of the way to getting the requisite number of signatures. But they said they didn’t find as much support from news media outlets or activist groups as hoped.

The group said it would continue to look toward 2022 or 2024, but acknowledged Utah law requires a ballot initiative’s language not be the same.

“As a result, if we’re going to file a measure for the Nov 2022 ballot then we have to make some changes to the proposal,” the group said. “Exactly what kinds of changes are needed to avoid the ‘substantially similar’ problem is a bit unclear (we’ve asked, and the answer was that ‘substantially similar’ is not defined in the statute and so it will be up to the lawyers in the Lt Gov’s office to decide) but the good news is that it should be possible to try different approaches and see whether or not they pass muster.”