Electric cars

Ballot measure would tax California’s wealthiest residents to fund efforts to fight wildfires and smoke

Ballot measure would tax California's wealthiest residents to fund efforts to fight wildfires and smoke

Nobody’s been living in California lately: the smoke, the orange sky, the smell of burning wood.

A ballot initiative that looks almost certain to go before voters in November targets wildfire pollution, and more.

nicknamed the Clean Cars and Clean Air Act, the measure would tax California’s wealthiest residents — those earning more than $2 million a year — and channel the proceeds to help the state fight wildfires and smoke. The initiative also targets automobile exhaust by directing new tax revenues towards increasing the number of electric cars and trucks on the road.

California is already investing heavily in fire management and zero-emission vehicles. These investments not only improve air quality, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A much appreciated United Nations climate report published on Monday concludes that greenhouse gas emissions must drop 43% by 2030 to limit the planet’s temperature increase to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, the point at which scientists say the fallout from global warming climate could become unbearable.

Still, supporters of the measure say California needs to spend more money on clean air, especially as temperatures continue to climb, only exacerbating the amount of smoke and smog from the fires. of forest.

“We’ve got a long way to go, and climate change is making it harder,” said Will Barrett, national senior director of the American Lung Association, who recently joined a coalition of influential health, fitness and medical groups. environment and labor to support the initiative. “We think this ballot measure can build on what the governor and the legislature are trying to do.”

Current state efforts may also be the reason some will not support the proposal to spend more money.

“Nobody’s going to come out and say, ‘I’m against clean air,'” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which opposes the measure. “But the reality is that California is already leading the way in terms of air pollution and climate change programs.”

The initiative, which organizers expect to qualify for elections on Nov. 8 this month, would generate about $3 billion to $4.5 billion a year for the cause until at least 2033, according to the Office of the State Legislative Analyst. Extinction date is based on progress limiting pollution.

Revenue is important. This would add at least hundreds of millions of dollars to the few billions the state currently spends each year on wildfire management, and would quadruple the state’s historic investment of half a billion dollars each year in rebates and infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles. Governor Gavin Newsom also recently increased funding for clean car programs using state budget surpluses.

The proceeds of the additional tax, according to the proposed ballot wording, would be distributed as follows: 45% for rebates and other incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles, 35% for charging stations and other electric vehicle infrastructure and 20 % for wildfire prevention and suppression for Cal Fire, the state firefighting agency. Low-income communities would be given priority in how revenues are spent.

The money would come from a 1.75% tax on the portion of an individual or married couple’s personal income over $2 million. The organizers of the measure estimate that less than a quarter of taxpayers would face the new levy. Previous proposals by voters in California have succeeded in using higher taxes on the wealthy to help fund mental health services and education.