Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, as anyone who has heard their gubernatorial debates can attest, agree on very little.
So it is telling that they have this in common: Both will vote against Proposition 23, which would suspend a 2006 law (AB 32) aimed at reducing California greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels within a decade.
Assembly Bill 32 is a major concern to many Californians. After implementation, it’s expected to cause an increase in energy costs for consumers and businesses.
In fact, if elected, Whitman says she will suspend the bill for a year and make changes to ease its burden on California’s ailing economy. We agree that AB 32 should be suspended.
Proposition 23, however, would likely shelve AB 32 for far more than a year. Under its terms, the law would be on ice until the state’s unemployment rate, now 12 percent, remains at 5.5 percent or below for four consecutive quarters.
Given California’s sluggish recovery, this could be many, many years away. At best, it would make it far more difficult to reach the lower emission targets within 10 years. At worst, it would make it impossible, and would be tantamount to repeal.
“It does not offer a sensible balance between our vital need for good jobs and the desire of all Californians to protect our precious environment,” Whitman said of Prop 23. “It is too simple of a solution for a complex problem.”
Not only that, but it is a solution proposed and primarily bankrolled by Valero and Tesoro, two Texas oil companies which would rather pay millions to push through a California ballot initiative than deal with the costs of complying with AB 32.
Finally, Prop 23 is a preemptive strike. This law — which includes tighter emission requirements, stricter building efficiency standards, a cap-and-trade program under which firms could buy, sell or trade emission allowances, and a number of flexible, market-based measures with which to meet new clean-air standards — won’t be completely implemented until 2012.
Still, in terms of rhetoric and spending, Prop 23 is running in front of all other measures on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Once the dust settles, spending on the measure could top $20 million. And the airwaves are filling with the duel: The California Jobs Initiative vs. The Dirty Energy Proposition.
The state’s moribund economy is why this proposition resonates? If AB 32 will really cost the state hundreds of thousands of jobs, why not put it on the shelf?
The Legislative Analyst says suspension of AB 32 could “result in a modest net increase in overall economic activity in the state” and, thus, “an unknown, but potentially significant net increase in state and local government revenues.” The analyst makes no job gain estimates, but Prop 23 advocates put the number as high as a million.
Opponents, on the other hand, say that about 500,000 “clean energy” jobs could be lost if Prop 23 passes and that the state’s fast-growing green economy could grind to a halt.
The truth may be somewhere in between, and may well depend on how AB 32 is implemented.
And the bill’s authors in 2006 had the foresight to allow our elected governor to suspend all or part of the law for up to a year to iron out problems.
Which sounds a lot better — to both Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown — than going along with a Texas oil company plan to sideline every word of the law indefinitely.
Prop 23, a meat-ax solution to a problem that deserves a more measured approach, deserves a No vote.