SACRAMENTO (February 19, 2009) – Ending months of uncertainty and an unprecedented state financial crisis, California’s lawmakers passed a bi-partisan budget today. The announced plan is designed to meet the $41 billion budget shortfall through 2010, but may end up costing the state more in the long run due to partisan policy agendas designed to relax pollution standards for diesel construction equipment and a series of highway projects. A delay in clean-up of diesel emissions from off-road vehicles will cost Californians billions in healthcare costs annually.
Following is a statement by Ann Notthoff, California advocacy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):
“California’s archaic supermajority vote requirement to approve the budget allows just six Republicans to demand concessions and hold up the budget for months at the expense of their constituents’ heath and well being. A small group of lawmakers insisted on delays for cleaning up the air that will cost hundreds of lives and contribute to asthma and chronic respiratory illness affecting thousands of Californians. Their major success during months of intense budget negotiations is to slow state efforts to clean up the dirtiest air pollution.”
“Policy discussion never should have been allowed into the budget process and we will work to prevent this situation from happening again. The system is broken and a small fraction of people took advantage of the situation to the full extent. It would have been much worse if the Legislature’s Democratic leaders hadn’t fought back. Thanks to them, there weren’t more environmental losses.”
“The unpopular Republican policy agenda fails to protect the health and safety of Californians or solve our economic problems. Now Californians have to pay the price.
The months-long budget stalemate brought massive public works projects to a halt, earned the state the lowest credit rating the U.S., and drove the State leaders to give in to the ransom demands of a small minority of Republican legislators in order to produce an agreement on the budget.
Republican legislators insisted on weakening state rules and allowing more diesel pollution from construction equipment and exempting eight highway projects from California’s Environmental Quality Act and accelerating environmental permits on those eight projects.
For more information, read Ann Notthoff’s blog at: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/anotthoff/