Politics

Poll: Carbon tax costs lawmakers votes

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

Since President Barack Obama called on Congress to take action on global warming, some lawmakers have been scrambling to garner support for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

However, supporting a carbon tax may cost them their seat, according to a new poll.

A poll by the Tarrance Group that surveyed 800 registered voters on behalf of the free-market Institute for Energy Research (IER) found that 50 percent of voters are less likely to re-elect their member of Congress if they support a carbon tax, while only 33 percent of voters are more likely to vote for them again.

This shouldn’t be surprising as most Americans — 59 percent — do not support a carbon tax, and 51 percent of voters say they are not willing to pay more every year for a carbon tax. Only 35 percent of voters favored a carbon tax.

“National leaders who support a carbon tax do so at their own peril,” said Thomas Pyle, president of IER. “Americans don’t buy the argument that a carbon tax will be used to help the environment or that businesses will just swallow the costs.”

With Congress’s approval rating still staggeringly low — the Real Clear Politics average is 13.6 percent — many Americans don’t trust lawmakers to responsibly use new revenues that would be raised through a carbon tax.

Sixty-one percent say that most lawmakers who support a carbon tax do so because they want more money to spend, while only 34 percent say they want to use the money to improve the environment.

Furthermore, while 80 percent of Americans believe that new government revenues should be used to pay down the federal government’s massive $16.7 trillion debt, only 18 percent actually believe it will be used for that and 73 percent think it will be used to fund more government spending.

“Common sense and experience leads the public to conclude that a carbon tax will only lead to more spending, more deficits and more harm to the U.S. economy,” Pyle added.

IER’s poll is part of a larger campaign to pressure lawmakers to scrap any plans they have for a carbon tax. The group will roll out a media blitz as early as Thursday that targets four Democrats and one Republican in the House who are “soft on the carbon tax issue,” IER spokesman Benjamin Cole told The Hill.

“The ad blitz, which will cost between $120,000 and $150,000, targets Democratic Reps. Bill Owens of New York, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Patrick Murphy of Illinois and William Enyart (Ill.), along with GOP Rep. Chris Smith (N.J.),” The Hill reports.

Previously, Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus said that the idea of a carbon had been gaining traction among lawmakers and was “on the table.”

“There are more members of the Senate now who openly talk about that than I have experienced. It is creeping up a little bit. Is that going to rise to the level of where it is a very strong, serious provision? I don’t know. But I am not going to pre-judge it,” Baucus said at a Christian Science Monitor event.

Conservative groups are concerned that a carbon tax could become part of a grand bargain between Republicans and Democrats whereby a carbon tax is put in place in exchange for lowering personal income, corporate income, or payroll taxes as well as nixing some environmental regulations.

However, IER and other groups warn against such political games, arguing that a carbon tax would harm the already delicate economy as it would make the price of nearly all goods and services increase as energy prices go up.

IER has declared that their campaign against the carbon tax won’t stop until Baucus and Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Camp — the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee — both declare that a carbon tax is off the table for tax reform.

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