Supporters of the Clean Cars and Clean Air Act ballot initiative, which aims to drastically reduce air pollution in California by increasing funding for wildfire firefighters, electric cars, and electric car infrastructure, announced on Tuesday that they accumulated almost 1 million signatures of the needed 623,212 needed to qualify for the November ballot, which will likely place the act there following signature verifications.
According to the Clean Cars and Clean Air Act, backed by the group Clean Air California, almost $100 billion will be invested directly into wildfire and electric car transportation initiatives over the next 20 years. 45% of the funding would go directly to rebates and other monetary incentives for electric and Zero emission vehicle (ZEV) purchases. This would include a California Air Resources Board (CARB)-run Factory New Passenger ZEV Incentive Program, which would give point-of-sale rebates to all California residents for buying or leasing ZEV vehicles. Low and middle income Californians would be of focus for this funding.
A further 35% of the funding would go towards charging stations for electric vehicles. The aim for this funding would include a focus on bringing station closer to multifamily housing, close any gaps in charging station coverage to help further encourage ZEV vehicle adoption in lower income areas, and ultimately make ZEV charging station more accessible than gas or diesel stations. Finally, the last 20% are to go to wildfire fighting programs. This would include a major focus on hiring and training new firefighters, as well as better fire prevention and safety infrastructure in at-risk areas and better wildfire detection services.
Funding, if approved by voters, would come from a large 1.75% tax on all Californians making $2 million or more a year. The tax, as well as all programs, would continue on until at least 2030. Starting that year, the taxes and programs will end as son as an 80% reduction of greenhouse gases compared to 1990 levels is recorded for more than 3 years in a row.. An ultimate sunset date of 2043 would otherwise be instituted if the reduction is not met by then.
Support for, opposition against ballot initiative
Supporters of the Act were ecstatic at the news of the number of signatures being collected on Tuesday and Wednesday, as the high number of signatures was all but guaranteed to beat out the process by the state that removes signatures that are invalid, such as those from people signing twice or not giving correct information.
“Every year we experience a more brutal fire season than the one preceding it,” said CAL FIRE Firefighters President Tim Edwards on Tuesday. “These fires are becoming increasingly difficult to fight due to both their rising extremity and Cal Fire’s significant staffing shortage. Recent reporting found that roughly 10% of our firefighters left the service last year, many due to a lack of mental health resources and support for the difficult work they do. If we’re going to survive the increasingly devastating challenge of wildfire, California will need to hire more firefighters and invest in better tools to help in our fire fighting and mitigation efforts. The Clean Cars and Clean Air Act will do just that.”
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior attorney Max Baumhefner added that “We’re calling for a bold, new program to tackle one of the most urgent needs of our time. This initiative dedicates much-needed, long-term funding to electrify our cars, trucks and buses, and create jobs by installing the charging infrastructure needed to power our future.”
However, many have also come out against the Act, who noted that it would only raise already higher taxes in the state and that it ignored the common sense solution of putting existing funds towards improvements elsewhere.
“We already have some of the highest taxes in the country,” explained Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal. “A lot of the air pollution in Southern California could be eliminated by spending transportation dollars on freeway improvements to reduce traffic jams. If these proposals are really priorities, they should be paid for out of the existing general fund.”
Others noted that focus should be more on or completely on the wildfire part of the Act.
“We only really need the wildfire part right now since it’s kind of an emergency,” explained Tina Spencer, a lawyer who has assisted wildfire victims in California since the early 2010’s, to the Globe on Wednesday. “That’s the one that is life and death. Yet only a fraction of the Act covers it. It should not be that way, not with so much of the state going up in flames each year that is costing lives, untold forest loss, and property damage and destruction.”
The Clean Cars and Clean Air Act will likely be on the general election ballot this November.
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