Several billion dollars a year in new electric vehicle incentives and new charging stations could be paid out if the proposed “Clean Cars and Clean Air Act” is voted on and gains voter approval.
The proposal, which will also raise hundreds of millions for wildfire prevention measures, will raise money in one of two ways: more than $2 million in personal income taxes or more than $20 million in corporate net income taxes.
Supporters, currently including Lyft, the IBEW electric union and California Green Voters, have qualified both versions for the signatures required to participate in the November vote. By the end of the month, these supporters are expected to decide which approach they will take when taxing personal or corporate income.
The measure is designed to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, improve air pollution in Southern California and reduce the growing threat of wildfires. It is specifically designed to attract low-income drivers to zero-emission vehicles.
While the state has been a global leader in tackling climate change, proponents say the lead is slipping while air quality continues to be a recurring issue. Transportation accounts for half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and 80% of the smog, which is increasingly exacerbated by wildfires.
“We have to protect the health of Californians,” said clean air advocate Bill Magavern, who helped write the motion for the vote. “California needs to step up to protect its own. The state is doing a lot to reduce harmful emissions, but the budget, even if the governor has obligations, is not enough to solve these problems.”
John Kupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, countered that Californians are already being taxed enough.
“We already have some of the highest taxes in the country,” Kupal said. “A significant portion of the air pollution in Southern California could be eliminated by spending vehicles on highway improvements to reduce congestion.
“If these proposals are indeed a priority, they should be paid for from the existing general fund.”
Neither the California Chamber of Commerce nor the Orange County Business Council have yet taken a formal position on the proposal, but the board is particularly wary of the proposed corporate tax increase.
“In times of economic recovery such as now, business-targeted tax increases are detrimental to our economic growth and ability to create jobs,” the council said in a statement in response to an inquiry from the Southern California News Group about the proposed initiative. “Instead of putting the private sector at a disadvantage, we should promote environmental protection and technological innovation, creating a favorable business environment to maintain a high quality of life.”
Before supporters finish honing their rebuttal to critics, they have yet another major hurdle to overcome: raising the more than $2 million needed to collect the 623,000 signatures needed by July 11.
They started off well given the backing of three different organizations with political bankrolls.
Lyft’s involvement comes as ridesharing services are trying to meet the state’s requirement to move to zero-emission vehicles by 2030. The proposed initiative will help ensure that there is a pool of green vehicle owners available for work.
IBEW could benefit from more jobs installing charging stations. California Environmental Voters, formerly the California Conservation Voters League, is a veteran political group with experience in mobilizing the resources of other environmental groups.
In addition, representatives of firefighters’ unions took part in the discussion of this measure and can also join the effort.
“I expect organizations investing in this to grow and there will be resources to put this on the ballot,” said Laura Deehan, California state director of environmental protection. While her group has yet to approve the measure, she has been involved in developing the initiative.
“We need to change the rules of the game to address these air quality issues,” Dihan said. “This voting measure is a type of political innovation that can help us achieve the ambitious goals set by the state.”
The state’s biggest goal for green cars is to end the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles and allow only zero-emission passenger cars to be sold by 2035.
Money in, money out
The personal income tax version of the measure would raise the tax by 1.75% on income over $2 million and generate between $3 billion and $4.5 billion a year. The corporate tax version would increase the tax by 2.45% on net income above $20 million, which would be between $3.5 billion and $5.5 billion per year.
In the two versions, revenue will be split equally: 45% for discounts and other incentives for the purchase of zero-emission vehicles, 35% for charging stations, and 20% for wildfire prevention and control, with priority on hiring and training firefighters.
Spending in each of the three categories is then broken down into mandatory funding amounts, with the incentive and charging station categories having elements designed to encourage low-income drivers to switch to zero-emission vehicles.
For example, half of the money for vehicle rebates and other incentives “would primarily benefit people living in low-income and disadvantaged communities.”
“EVs remain too expensive for many Californians who are already dealing with the high cost of living in this state,” the proposed initiative says. “Existing consumer financial assistance was not enough for low- and middle-income California families or many organizations to be able to buy or rent electric vehicles.”
For charging stations, at least 20% of these funds will go to connection assistance in apartment buildings, 10% to private homes, 10% to passenger car quick refueling stations and 10% to medium and heavy vehicles. . At least half of the infrastructure money will go to low-income households and communities.
The goal, according to the initiative, is to make zero-emission car refueling “more affordable and convenient than refueling a diesel or gasoline car for every Californian, no matter where they live or work.”