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Time to Stop the Economic Injustice

Edwin A. Lombard III
Fox&Hounds Contributor

Well, the election is behind us.  Now we have to figure out what it all means, not just in terms of leadership and ballot proposition results, but in the broader context of the state’s economic, social and regulatory framework.  For California’s underserved families and communities, the news is not good.

Voters have approved a dizzying array of new taxes and tax increases, many of them earmarked for specific purposes, limiting funds available for the general safety net for the needy.  Punitive taxes on corporations and “the rich” could drive productive citizens, employers and job creators out of the state. And that’s only what we voted on.

Flying totally under the radar this month is another, more insidious hidden tax:  the California Air Resources Board’s cap and trade auction.  Scheduled to begin just a week after Election Day, this obscure regulation is projected to impose billions of dollars in higher energy costs on some of California’s largest industries and employers. Those costs are likely to trickle – no, make that flood – down to every individual, family, business and local government here in the form of increases in fuel prices, electricity rates, and the cost of food, medicine, clothing and other everyday essentials.

That’s the economic side.  But then there’s the societal view.

When we increase costs for things like groceries, electricity, gasoline and college tuition to pay for emissions permits in a cap and trade auction, we make it harder for disadvantaged youth, their families and their communities to pull themselves up the ladder. By raising costs and reducing revenues for our cities, we make it harder to provide the basic levels of service our communities expect and deserve for public safety, education and emergency response.

This is compounded by the fact that as businesses pay for auction permits, and as more people lose their jobs, there is less private support available for the non-profits that the least fortunate among us rely on for food, shelter and clothing. This is NOT a good thing.

Now a common misconception, which proponents of this energy tax unfortunately perpetuate, is that this is an environmental justice issue.  We need the cap and trade auction to “make the polluters pay” for their global warming emissions and to protect our communities from the ravages of climate change.

This is incorrect on two levels: First, California’s legislative analyst has concluded that we can get the emissions reductions required under the state’s global warming law without an auction, and that the auction might even increase those emissions by just driving them over the border to other states.

Second, it’s not only the emitters who will pay.  As previously noted their costs are likely to be passed right down the food chain to the very communities who can afford it the least.  Those communities would pay not only through higher prices for just about everything they need in their daily lives, but in lost jobs and lost community revenues as well.  And while a portion of the monies collected from businesses might be doled out to our communities in the form of new programs or rebates, it’s highly unlikely it will be enough to offset the costs.

That’s not environmental justice – it’s economic injustice.

We’re all for fighting global warming but not if means further crippling our struggling families and communities with higher costs and lost jobs for a program that isn’t needed to meet our emissions goals and could actually make emissions worse.

Yes, Election Day is over but the worst is yet to come.  And since we weren’t given the opportunity to vote on this under-the-radar tax, only the Governor can stop it before it adds another layer of misery to the challenges already blanketing California’s underserved population.

Governor Brown: We have enough new taxes on our plate.  Do the right thing and stop this environmentally unnecessary and economically destructive auction now.

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