Tag Archives: Proposition 25

California Voters Say Yes to Clean Energy and to Ending Budget Gridlock

There were nine measures on the statewide November ballot and NRDC took positions on four of them: we supported Propositions 21 and 25, and opposed Propositions 23 and 26.

Proposition 23 was the largest public referendum in history on climate and clean energy policy, with almost 10 million voters, and is a decisive victory for California’s clean energy future. The measure was rejected by almost a two to one margin, with over 61 percent voting against Proposition 23. NRDC and a broad bipartisan coalition of environmental and public health advocates, businesses, labor unions, the NAACP, Latino organizations, community groups, utilities, consumers — and yes, even some oil companies – fought Proposition 23 together. This coalition represents the new face of the environmental movement and promises a clean energy future for California. We will continue to work together to foster policies that provide multiple benefits, including a prosperous economy and improved public health.

Voters also passed Proposition 25, which will help end budget gridlock by allowing passage of a state budget with a simple majority vote rather than the two-thirds vote currently required. Budget gridlock and the supermajority budget vote requirement was threatening the very foundation of state government; in recent years, a handful of legislators have been able to hold the entire state budget hostage as they pushed to weaken or repeal critical environmental policies in exchange for their budget votes.    

Then voters turned around and voted for Proposition 26, a measure funded by oil, alcohol and tobacco interests that will make the budget harder to balance, again. It will shift the cost of public health and environmental damages caused by companies from those responsible to taxpayers and create another $1 billion hole in the state budget. This was a short sighted measure, but this vote will not stop California’s path breaking climate program. Mary Nichols, Chair of the State Air Resources Board which is responsible for carrying out AB 32 said this morning that “Prop 26 does not impair the scoping plan adopted in 2008 or any regulations developed under that plan. AB 32 is on track, with renewed vigor thanks to the resounding defeat of Prop 23 by the voters.”

Proposition 21, went down to a surprising defeat given the popularity of our state parks. This measure would have helped keep our state parks accessible to all and fund sorely needed maintenance.

The defeat of Proposition 23 is much more far-reaching in its significance and impact than any setbacks on Propositions 21 and 26. This victory on climate and clean energy was particularly significant for the Golden State and the rest of the nation. In an election when the economy trumped all other issues, including two wars, it is no surprise why. Jobs in California’s clean energy sector have grown 10 times faster than the statewide average over the past five years, and the clean tech sector attracted $9 billion cumulative venture capital investment from 2005 through 2009.

We hope that this campaign will inspire the nation in another way. Proposition 23 was defeated because Californians are devoted to pragmatism and compromise rather than inflexible ideology. We’ve done it in the past by passing the nation’s most progressive air and water quality laws – regulations that consequently served as models for other states and the federal government.

As we celebrate a victory for common sense, it’s more clear than ever that working together is what makes us stronger. We need the great technical expertise, brain power and vast capital resources of businesses, the workforce of unions, the reach of diverse community groups and the wide sweep of public and private partners to make an efficient transition to the coming clean energy economy. And sooner or later, we will all work together for the common good. We have no other choice.

Solved: the Curious Case of the California Oil Companies who Sat Out Prop 23.

Proposition 23, known as the Dirty Energy Proposition for its financial backing from oil companies, has garnered national publicity for its effort to roll back California’s greenhouse gas law.  Virtually all of its funding has come from outside California, beginning with Texas-based Valero Energy Co., Texas-based Tesoro Energy Co., and the Kansas-based Koch brothers.  Californians who care about our state, and who remember Texas-based Enron and Utah-based LDS Church, resent the intrusion of out of state interests meddling in our politics.  

But what of in-state oil companies and businesses who might normally put their money into Proposition 23?  Chevron and the California Chamber of Commerce are staying neutral.  That’s good, right?

I investigated.  Short answer: no, that’s not good.

Proposition 23 is easy to understand — FAQs here.  Propositions 25 and 26, by comparison, are MEGO propositions — “my eyes glaze over” — addressing budget processes.  Proposition 25 will end budget gridlock by requiring a simple majority, rather than a 2/3 vote, to pass a state budget; both the California Democratic Party and the Los Angeles Times recommend a “yes” vote.  Proposition 26, a state constitutional amendment, seeks to require a 2/3 majority on certain business fees by declaring them “taxes”; both the California Democratic Party and Los Angeles Times recommend “no” votes.  

While officially remaining neutral on Proposition 23, California-based oil companies Chevron and Occidental, and the California Chamber of Commerce, have been quietly funnelling their cash into a No on 25/Yes on 26 political action committee.  I’ve reviewed donations made through the end of September 2010, reported 10/5/10.  All data from California Secretary of State.

First, the basic size of the PAC:

TOTAL CONTRIBUTIONS 1/1/2010 – 09/30/2010 $6,051,060.29


TOTAL EXPENDITURES 1/1/2010 – 09/30/2010 $9,459,904.08

ENDING CASH $819,351.21

By contrast, here’s the same data for the dirty energy “Yes on 23” PAC:

TOTAL CONTRIBUTIONS 1/1/2010 – 09/30/2010 $8,362,235.39


TOTAL EXPENDITURES 1/1/2010 – 09/30/2010 $5,317,593.35

ENDING CASH $3,122,966.01

In other words, both groups have taken in about the same amount of money; Yes on 23 has more cash in reserve and No on 25/Yes on 26 has spent more.

Here are some contributions to No on 25/Yes on 26:

California Business Political Action Committee, Sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce:

$215,000.00  4/23/2010

$325,000.00  4/30/2010

$100,000.00  5/7/2010

$120,000.00  5/17/2010

$75,000.00  4/1/2010

$235,000.00  8/20/2010

 $2,322.65  7/1/2010 (non-monetary contribution)

$100,000.00  3/4/2010

$50,000.00  3/5/2010

$125,000.00  3/10/2010

$75,000.00  3/18/2010

Subtotal: $1,422.322.65

Chevron Corporation [based in San Ramon, CA]

$250,000.00  4/15/2010

$250,000.00  9/13/2010

$750,000.00  9/24/2010

Occidental Petroleum [based in Los Angeles, CA]

$250,000.00  9/24/2010

Subtotal from California-based oil companies: $1,500,000

Chevron has donated $1.25M to Prop 26, compared to Koch’s donation of $1M to Prop 23.  But why does Chevron care about California’s budget?  Proposition 26’s backers portray the initiative as necessary to stop “hidden taxes.”  Jean Ross of the California Budget Project explains otherwise:

the fees at issue are primarily those that regulate, mitigate and otherwise respond to environmental, health, and other social impacts of products and services. In other words, businesses seeking to avoid financial responsibility for the “externalities” of the products that they sell….

If the state can’t impose the fees on “pollution-causing industries” to recoup the cost of environmental monitoring and remediation, those costs will be shifted to taxpayers as a whole. Or, in an era where budget crises have become the status quo, programs that enforce environmental, food safety and other laws will be scaled back, if not eliminated. Which may be the true goal of the backers of Proposition 26.

Proposition 26 is a Polluters Protection Act.  Its goal is simple: whatever Proposition 23 can’t undo openly, Proposition 26 will undermine sneakily.  Californians are enthusiastically mobilizing against Proposition 23, but they need to be equally energized against Proposition 26 and for Proposition 25.