Governor Brown and California’s legislative leaders are working around the clock to address the state’s $26.6 billion budget deficit, yet a deal remains elusive. The governor proposes a mix of budget cuts and extensions to taxes that would otherwise expire this July, to close the gap. The tax extensions would go before voters in a June special election, and according to a poll released this week, most Californians support extending personal income, sales and vehicle license taxes at their current rates for five more years, which would add about $12 billion to the ailing budget. However, even though voters made it more democratic to pass a State Budget by approving Prop 25 that allows a majority vote for the budget rather than a 2/3 vote, it still takes 2/3 to put a revenue measure on the ballot – and that’s where the Republicans come in. Simply allowing voters to decide requires a 2/3 vote of the legislature, meaning two Republicans in the Assembly and two in the Senate must agree.
We’ve seen time and again that state Republicans use their leverage over the budget process to extract major policy changes that have nothing to do with the budget. As the Los Angeles Times editorialized on Thursday, the environment is again their preferred target and they’re hawking a bad deal.
The Republican proposal would gut the California Environmental Quality Act, the state’s bedrock law that affords citizens a voice in the approval process for major development proposals. This would pave the way for more projects by taking away the people’s voice and allow only the state Attorney General or those wealthy enough to pony up a $50,000 “deposit” to the court can challenge environmental impact reports in court. Their proposal would retain CEQA as an option for industry and wealthy developers but lock regular citizens out of the process.
Clearly, California’s Republican politicians did not get the message sent by the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 23 in November. In that battle, voters of every stripe and in every area of the state resoundingly rejected an attempt by out of state oil companies and the Koch brothers to stop programs that clean up California’s air and build a clean energy economy. They rejected the false choice of environmental protection or economic growth presented by Prop. 23’s backers. Less than five months later, we see the same tired proposals to weaken health and environmental protections through the budget process. NRDC calls on our leaders in Sacramento to reject these proposals and vote to put a balanced solution to our budget problems on the ballot without delay. Click here to urge your legislators to let the people decide.