Economist sues Washington State for eliminating his job after he spoke out against economic impact of carbon tax

“I tried to do the right thing, and they eliminated my job. I didn’t want to quit."

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
A former Washington state economist has filed a legal claim against Democrat Governor Jay Inslee and two state agencies for allegedly retaliating against him after he refused to stay quiet about a new carbon tax supported by Democrats that he predicted would spike gas prices.

According to KING 5, Scott Smith was a transportation planner for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) tasked with forecasting fuel consumption, pricing, and revenues from gas taxes and fees.

Smith told the outlet that after 35 years working as a public sector economist, his career was destroyed because he refused to lie about a new carbon tax that would jack the gas prices by 45 to 50 cents per gallon.

Smith said, “I tried to do the right thing, and they eliminated my job. I didn’t want to quit. I’m an economist. That’s the way I think. I’ve been damaged. I’m 64 years old. I’ve got nowhere to go. They left me no other choice.”

In January, the state imposed the new cap-and-trade program, part of the Climate Commitment Act, which was passed by the Democrat-controlled state legislature and signed into law by Inslee, allegedly to combat climate change.

Despite multiple warnings about the predicted jump in gas prices, Washington officials, including Inslee, claimed the increase would barely be noticeable and amount to mere “pennies.”

Dept. of Ecology’s Climate Policy Section Manager Joel Creswell said in November 2022, “I don’t think it’s going to be noticeable.”

As the prices began to rise in March, Climate Commitment Act Implementation Manager Luke Martland said, “All in all, over time, we don’t think we’re going to see a big impact on prices at the pump, on customer prices.”

A now-deleted page on the department’s website claimed the Climate Commitment Act’s impact would be “very modest.”

Smith told KING 5, “That (analysis) flies in the face of reality. It’s really sixth-grade math.”

Smith filed a claim Thursday against WSDOT, the Office of Financial Management (OFM), and Inslee’s office, alleging that the former employee was pressured to stay mum about his prediction that the cap-and-trade program would cause a 45- to 50-cent increase per gallon of gas. He also claimed he was ordered not to write emails about it, so as not to have anything to turn over as a result of a public records request.

Smith provided the outlet with emails he wrote himself, detailing his treatment by his superiors asking him to lie to conceal the truth about the tax.

Deputy Communications director for Inslee, Mike Faulk, told King 5 that it should not be reporting on the story, saying, “It’s clear as we gathered information today about this, just how complicated the forecast process is and all the pieces that go into it. It would be prudent for (KING) to truly understand this process before drawing conclusions and reporting on claims that have not yet been investigated.”

Smith claimed that after he included his calculations showing the jump in gas prices due to the tax in a March 2023 quarterly report to the Transportation Revenue Forecast Council, he was retaliated against, including having his responsibilities “scaled down or eliminated,” managers trying to “change and backdate his employee evaluation,” and a supervisor refusing to let him “visit his elderly mother over the holiday.”

Executive director and counsel for the Citizen Action Defense Fund Jackson Maynard told King 5 that Smith is “…a brilliant economist. And then to be treated this way, just, he had had enough. The message to the state of Washington is that you cannot bully state employees. You cannot force them to lie to support a political narrative for powerful people – that they have a voice, and they have protections under that law.”

Smith is requesting damages for $750,000.

This would not be the first time state officials have attempted to conceal the effects of the carbon tax.

In August, it was revealed that Puget Sound Energy jacked its rates on residents as a result of the Democrat-passed cap-and-trade program, but was prohibited from informing its customers as to the reason why.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) mandated that Puget Sound Energy, which serves approximately 800,000 customers in six counties, must not inform customers in their bills as to why there was a rate increase. This was per a recommendation from the office of Washington State Attorney General, Democrat Bob Ferguson.

Ferguson is currently running to replace Inslee as governor.

Though Inslee has painted himself as a leader in protecting the environment, and unsuccessfully ran for president in 2019 on that platform, Washington has failed to hit many of its goals in preventing climate change.

According to an analysis by KING 5 of data from the Department of Ecology, Washington is recycling less, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are up and carbon emissions are up as well, despite a state law requiring a reduction.

The numbers are so bad that the state has scrubbed climate info from Results Washington, a website created by Inslee to set, track, measure and publicize state goals, according to King 5.
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