Proposition 30 is unnecessary. California is already funding EVs and wildfire prevention

Climate change and poor air quality present a serious threat to California’s future and demand an urgent and thoughtful policy response. So it is understandable that Californians would embrace a scheme to increase taxes on wealthy residents to fund our transition to electric vehicles. 

This is the argument that supporters of Proposition 30, a statewide measure on the November ballot, continually make. 

Voters should think twice. While it has been marketed as a clean-air initiative benefiting all Californians, Prop. 30 represents the worst of ballot-box budgeting. The campaign has been funded largely by a single corporation – ride-hailing giant Lyft – to secure electric vehicle subsidies from taxpayers. 

The issue of how to deal with increased emissions from ride-hailing companies first entered California politics in 2018, when Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley authored Senate Bill 1014, requiring rideshare companies to electrify their vehicle fleets by 2030. The law was in response to growing concerns that drivers spent a lot of time idling or traveling without passengers and therefore generated a disproportionate amount of emissions compared to regular drivers. 

Lyft actively opposed Skinner’s legislation and later lobbied the state for taxpayer subsidies to help fund the transition. The California Air Resources Board adopted regulations last year that requires rideshare companies to be emission-free by the end of the decade. 

This recent history can’t be overlooked. Lyft has spent over $50 million to convince California taxpayers to help fund their regulatory requirements – rather than spend their own money to support drivers and comply with the new rules.

The proposition was deliberately written to bypass the state’s general fund and create an enormous lockbox of money that can only be spent on Prop. 30’s goals – at the expense of the entire state budget. In recent years, the state has reached its spending cap allowed by law. The commitments for electric vehicles and wildfire funding under Prop. 30 could force the state to cut other programs if the limit is reached in future years, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Prop. 30 dedicates only 20% of funds to wildfire prevention. Additionally, there is no money in the proposal for strengthening California’s electric grid, which has been under greater stress in recent years and could face more pressure if we are not careful.

Frankly, the state is already addressing the issues Prop. 30 wants to solve. Gov. Gavin Newsom has invested more than $54 billion toward climate initiatives, including $10 billion for our electric vehicle transition and an additional $810 million to strengthen the state’s firefighting capabilities. And Newsom and the Legislature made these investments while taking every stakeholder into account – from ratepayers to city and county governments to the state’s grid capacity. 

The coalition against Prop. 30 is bipartisan and far-reaching, and includes nearly every major newspaper in the state. Voters should see through this unnecessary reach into California’s budget and oppose Prop. 30.

Matt Rodriguez is the founder and CEO of Rodriguez Strategies. He is currently working on the “No on Prop. 30” campaign.

Proposition 30 is another chance for California to show national leadership

When I introduced California’s Clean Car Act 20 years ago, some people viewed it as a radical step. 

It required auto manufacturers to make “maximum feasible” reductions in tailpipe emissions. The need for such action was evident and urgent. California had the worst air quality in the country, children were suffering from unacceptably high levels of respiratory disease and greenhouse gas emissions were imperiling the planet.

The auto industry fought California as we implemented the law, but we ultimately prevailed in the U.S. Supreme Court. Other states followed our lead. Under President Obama, stringent new fuel efficiency standards were implemented nationwide. The Trump administration tried in vain to undo all of that.

Two decades later, we’ve made some progress. Even as the number of vehicles on our highways has increased, the number of days in which parts of our state exceed federal air quality standards has leveled off. Studies show that new asthma cases in children have declined by 20%.

But the need for further action remains evident and urgent. California still has the worst air quality in the nation. Too many children still carry inhalers in their backpacks. Too many babies are born prematurely or underweight because of the air their mothers breathe. The climate crisis is worsening.

California needs to finish the job. Vehicle emissions remain the single largest source of air pollution and greenhouse gasses in California. To clean the air and avoid climate catastrophe, we must get them down to zero.

California can demonstrate renewed leadership by adopting Proposition 30, a statewide measure on the November ballot. It would generate sustainable funding to enable the transition to zero-emission transportation. It would provide subsidies to make it possible for average Californians to purchase battery-electric and other zero-emission cars, and it would help finance the charging station infrastructure needed to support them.

Significantly, Prop. 30 would also require that at least half those investments be made in the low-income communities, which are the least protected from air pollution.

This investment would be financed through a 1.75% tax increase on income exceeding $2 million annually. Only a very few, very wealthy Californians would be affected. But because so much wealth is concentrated in so few hands, that small increase would produce big results

Two decades ago, I heard the doomsday predictions about the Clean Car Act. Critics said it would increase costs and limit the types of vehicles on the market. None of that happened. 

Imagine not just how much worse our air quality would be but also how much more Californians would be paying for gas if average fuel efficiency was still at 20.4 miles per gallon, as it was in 2002, instead of today’s 36 mpg average.

Critics now say electric cars will be too expensive and that the transition to zero-emission will limit the types of vehicles on the market. Well, the price differential between gas-powered and electric vehicles is closing fast – even faster, when you also calculate the cost of operating a gas-powered car on $6 a gallon gas.

Affordability remains a serious concern for many low- and middle-income families. And the lack of charging infrastructure – particularly in communities of color and lower-income areas – also poses a serious hurdle that must be addressed. Prop. 30 offers a solution.

With up to $4 billion per year in new investment in zero-emission vehicles under Prop. 30, California will spur the marketplace and drive innovation that will further bring down costs and eliminate barriers to ownership. The effects of that, just as with the Clean Car Act, will spread across the nation and the world.

Those of us supporting Prop. 30 recognize that this is the jumpstart needed to produce a new era of clean air and clean cars. The financing would expire after 20 years – or sooner if emission reduction goals are achieved before then.

We can finish the job. We can usher in an era of cleaner air, healthier kids and a more stable climate. Supporting Prop. 30 can make it happen.

Former state Senator Fran Pavley authored several landmark clean air and climate action laws, including the Global Warming Solutions Act.

These articles were originally published by CalMatters.