Republican Gubernatorial candidates are only debating how best to delay the implementation of A.B. 32
(This story has been updated to reflect the statement released today by the Governor’s Office. – DN)
Proponents of clean energy and environmental laws designed to reduce the amount of Greenhouse Gases from being dumped into the air had best not take lightly the challenge to A.B. 32, the California State Law mandating changes that would reduce the state’s emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Proponents of a ballot initiative that would "delay" implementation of the law until the state’s unemployment level is below 5.5% for a full year submitted hundreds of thousands of signatures for certification to election officials earlier today that would place the decision on whether or not to move forward with the mandates of A.B. 32 in voter hands this fall. The Sacramento Bee quotes one of the campaign’s leaders as exclaiming, "We’re headed to the ballot!" They have some momentum, and they know it.
As you can see by the chart below, the state unemployment level is almost triple that number, and hasn’t been at 5.5% in years.
Critics of the "delay" language counter that the proponents know that
the unemployment rate is unlikely to dip to that level anytime soon and
the ballot measure is just a clever way of defeating the legislation. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger,
who’s reputation as a "Green" governor rests on this legislation’s
implementation, released a strong statement slamming the backers of the
legislation as "greedy oil companies" and special interests.
The effort to suspend AB 32 is the work of greedy oil companies who
want to keep polluting in our state and making profits. AB 32 will add
jobs, create savings in energy costs and increase personal incomes. In
fact, the highest job creation California is seeing right now is in our
green economy. When I ran for Governor, I said if special interests
tried to push me around, I would push back. That’s exactly what I will
do to these greedy oil companies.
However, the coalition pushing the change has many more supporters than just a handful of out-of-state oil companies and conservative activist organizations. Both major Republican candidates for Governor back some sort of delay for the legislation. If you watch the video above, both Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman are tripping over each other to be the one to take the "toughest" position on delaying the law.
Just because much of the funding for the measure’s supporters, comes from Texas-based oil firm, Valero, and by Occidental Petroleum; doesn’t mean that backlash against the environmental law is limited to well-healed oil barons. The populist rhetoric fueling the campaign, that pits an over-reaching government that places vague green promises against small business owners who are being strangled by over-regulation, seems tailor made for a tea-party rally. Especially when the California Small Business Roundtable estimates that implementation of A.B. 32 will cost small businesses in California about $50,000 anually and would destroy more than one million California jobs.
But does the rhetoric meet the reality? The Bee also featured a story this weekend about one of the many green businesses that are based in California because the state’s green policies guarantees a market over the next couple of years. The story illustrates how competition for these businesses between states is fierce. While California has experienced a Green Jobs boom in recent years, resulting in 159,000 new jobs, states such as Ohio are jockeying to have those jobs move east, and out of the Golden State.
The good news is that a recent statewide poll, 58% of California voters still back A.B. 32. But history has shown us that those numbers can turn around in a hurry if some of the rhetoric being pushed catches on.