California Can't Balance Budget on Environment's Back, Says NRDC

Conservation Group Says Funding for Environmental and Public Health Programs is Available from Water and Parks Bonds and by Making Polluters Pay

Statement by Ann Notthoff, NRDC California Advocacy Director

SAN FRANCISCO (January 9, 2004) -- Environmental programs are a tiny fraction of California's general fund, and they won't yield money-saving cuts to balance the budget, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The national conservation group with offices in San Francisco and Santa Monica issued the following statement in response to today's release of Gov. Schwarzenegger's budget proposal.

"You can't balance the budget on the back of the environment," said Ann Notthoff, NRDC California advocacy director. "There's simply not enough money in the first place to make reasonable cuts." Notthoff noted that environmental spending is less than 2 percent of the general fund.

"Besides," said Notthoff, "We have funding mechanisms that should shelter environmental programs from Draconian cuts. Last year, for example, California passed a law that shifts the tab for many environmental programs from taxpayers to polluters. These polluter fees enforce environmental accountability, while sending money back to the state at a time when it's needed more than ever to preserve basic services. Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposal to increase timber harvest fees would continue this funding shift. California voters have also passed water and parks bonds that provide capital funding costs for many key resource programs."

However, Notthoff warned that there are some key public health programs that rely very much on the general fund. For example, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment performs the essential job of evaluating the risk to the environment and public health from hazardous substances.

"We'll be watching closely as the Legislature considers the governor's budget proposal," said Notthoff. "We need to make sure that priority programs like the Coastal Commission and Department of Fish and Game are not disproportionately attacked, as they were last year by some misguided legislators."