Brown Makes Environmental Justice Pitch to Get Two-Thirds Vote for Cap-n-Trade

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

At the budget revision press conference last week, Gov. Jerry Brown tried to assuage Democratic lawmakers over costs on his cap-and-trade extension by arguing for environmental justice so as to assure a two-thirds vote for the plan.

Brown is aware that some Democrats in low-income areas are wary of supporting legislation that will increase costs on their constituents. Under pressure from the governor and legislative leaders, Democrats in the legislature supported a dramatic 43% increase in the gas tax. Additional costs will filter down to residents if the cap-and-trade plan is tightened and extended.

For some Democratic legislators who represent low-income areas, another vote that would increase costs on their constituents may be a bridge too far.

Brown is aware of the struggles some Democratic legislators have over the cap-and-trade vote. At his press conference, Brown emphasized that half the revenue for pollution reducing projects using cap-and-trade funds are spent to protect communities of color. He urged a vote for cap-and-trade on the basis of environmental justice. Brown said that the state should not turn its back on the low-income communities.

Those rhetorical arrows were aimed directly at wavering Democrats.

To be sure, Brown expressed hope that he might secure Republican votes for his cap-and-trade plan. He said he was not counting out Republicans and pointed out that businesses were joining in the effort to support a cap-and-trade policy.

Indeed, the same day of the budget press conference, the California Chamber of Commerce circulated a letter to legislators in support of cap-and-trade.

The Chamber argued that the market-based approach of cap-and-trade allows for more flexibility and is less expensive than any command-and-control greenhouse gas reduction plan the legislature might create.

However, CalChamber, also urged the legislature to pass the cap-and-trade extension by the two-thirds vote. The Chamber brought suit against the original set up of cap-and-trade arguing that fees related to the auction were taxes and required a two-thirds vote, something the original measure did not achieve.

The Chamber lost its lawsuit on both the Superior and Appellate Court levels and is considering whether to appeal to the California Supreme Court.

Gov. Brown wants to brush away any uncertainty about the validity of the cap-and-trade funding program. That’s why he desperately wants to achieve a two-thirds vote. And, he knows he must appeal to Democrats to make that happen. So the governor emphasized the environmental justice pitch when the cap-and-trade issue was raised at the press conference to counter concerns about increased costs for low-income communities.

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