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Election 2010: Proposition 23

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, October 18, 2010

NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the California Chamber of Commerce supports Prop 23. It has, in fact, remained neutral.

Schwarzenegger: "It is time now to create some action and to sign the bills, okay…" (applause)
This story starts on a hazy September morning four years ago, on Treasure Island, in the middle of San Francisco Bay.  That's where California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 32 - and he managed to avoid understating its benefits.

Schwarzenegger: "When we sign this bill, we will begin a bold new era of environmental protection here in California that will change the course of history."

AB 32 came from negotiations between the Republican governor and Democrats in the state legislature.  It imposed the nation's first cap on greenhouse gas emissions and set a goal of reducing California's emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020 - that's a 25 percent drop.  Business and industry groups weren't happy.  The California Chamber of Commerce named the measure to its high-profile "Job Killer" list - and critics worried the bill would force companies and jobs to leave the state.

Sparano: "This is Global Warming, not California Warming."

That's Joe Sparano with the Western States Petroleum Association.  He spoke on public radio station KPCC's AirTalk the day AB 32 passed the legislature.

Sparano: "We're very concerned about California taking a leadership role.  It's wonderful to be a leader and try to do some good things.  It's not so wonderful if that leadership position exposes your citizens to economic harm."

A lot's changed in the last four years.  The California Air Resources Board has approved several regulatory and market-based measures to help achieve AB 32's emission reduction goal, including a "cap-and-trade" program.  Those regulations will take effect on New Year's Day, 2012.


Story clip from Capital Public Radio's Marianne Russ: "The Secretary of State has certified a measure that would suspend California's greenhouse gas reduction law, known as AB 32.  It'll appear on the November ballot, and would suspend the implementation of the law until unemployment drops below five-and-a-half percent for at least a year."

That means cap-and-trade and many other regulations wouldn't take effect for … well … however long it takes the state's economy to recover.

Proposition 23 is backed by the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation and similar groups which continue to believe those regulations are hurting the state's businesses and workers.  GOP Assemblyman Dan Logue is one of Prop 23's leading supporters.

Logue: "Do we want to heal our economy?  Or do we want to go down this road further and charge the people and drive their energy costs up to 60 percent more? Businesses will leave the state, number one, and number two, energy costs will go up higher."

It's also backed by two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, which have contributed millions of dollars to the Yes on 23 campaign.  Governor Schwarzenegger and other Prop 23 opponents have seized that opening to question the companies' motives.  Here's the governor speaking late last month.

Schwarzenegger: "It's very rare that California in the last 40 years had an unemployment rate of below 5.5 percent four consecutive quarters.  So I mean I think that's very clear they want to take it out.  They're not interested in our environment.  They're only interested in greed and filling their pockets with more money."

Other Prop 23 critics include public health and environmental groups, some local chambers of commerce and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown.  The Republican candidate, Meg Whitman, also opposes the measure - but she does support suspending the original legislation for a year.  She'd have that power, if elected, under a provision built into AB 32.  It allows a governor to delay some or all provisions in the event of extraordinary circumstances - including significant economic harm.

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