If the Governor thought Washington D.C. was cold, he should have seen the Senate’s response to his budget ideas. While California’s Big Five were asking for cash in Washington, the Senate Budget Committee met to discuss several of the Governor’s emergency budget session proposals, including three egregious attacks on public health and the environment.
The committee was clearly skeptical that any of these measures would create jobs or help balance the budget. And while environmental, conservation, labor, and local government groups filled the room to point out why elements of the Governor’s plans don’t pass muster, there were no groups present to support those proposals except the Governor’s own finance team.
Representatives from a vast array of interests including environment, labor, and local government all spoke out against the Governor’s proposal to permanently eliminate any state support for public transportation. Committee members noted that cutting transit funding would not only hinder our efforts to clean our air and fight global warming, but would cost jobs and further cripple our economy.
OFFSHORE OIL DRILLING
The committee also heard the Governor’s latest effort to open up our pristine coast to new oil drilling. In this year’s version, the Governor is proposing to link funding for state parks to potential royalties. Committee members were quick to point out that his approach is not an effective solution, especially when the State Lands Commission already rejected the drilling proposal once and has no plans to revisit the idea.
Several environmental organizations also pointed out that the State Parks Access Pass, which will hopefully be on November’s ballot, offers a more reliable and permanent funding source for parks. Others pointed to an oil severance tax on existing pumping as a much better way to raise oil revenue to add to the general fund.
POORLY PLANNED DEVELOPMENT
The committee then critiqued the Governor’s proposal to allow over 100 major new developments to bypass measures to ensure smart planning and meaningful public participation. The Department of Finance was pressed to explain how the Administration could expect developers to mitigate the impacts of their projects or include local input in the absence of any mechanisms for accountability.
Planning and Conservation League was on hand along with several other groups to explain that the proposal would be a de facto exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act, and could lead to new toxic power plants or waste incinerators near schools and neighborhoods.
Local residents would have no way to insist that a project’s pollution and other impacts be mitigated to minimize harm. Again, several committee members questioned how the proposal would create jobs or improve the current budget crisis.
Traci Sheehan is the Executive Director of The Planning and Conservation League, a statewide, nonprofit lobbying organization. For more than thirty years, PCL has fought to develop a body of environmental laws in California that is the best in the United States.