The primary role of government is public safety. Sadly, there is no question our State often fails to fully fund essential public safety services. All too often, public safety takes a back seat in State budget discussions. Furthermore, bureaucrats and politicians frequently propose new taxes to fund public safety, when it should be funded with the first dollars of the budget, not the last. But given the current budget shortfalls, it is clear increased funding for public safety is not possible without new funding sources. That is why I and 30 other pro-public safety Legislators are proposing AB X8 42 to protect public safety by supplementing fire protection throughout California without adding painful or counterproductive taxes on families and small businesses that cannot afford them.

To boost public safety funding, AB X8 42 would utilize a portion of the new revenues that would be contributed to the state as the result of a proposal to allow more efficient and environmentally friendly oil drilling to occur off the coast of Santa Barbara at Tranquillion Ridge. This modern, high tech process would replace several existing oil platforms and allow more oil to be produced locally with minimal visual impact and minimal potential threat to the environment. While I cannot claim there is a consensus, many local environmental groups support this project because of the benefits it could provide to the region and state.

AB X8 42 would enable our California fire service to access $45 million of these new Tranquillion Ridge proceeds each and every year. The ‘T-Ridge’ project is anticipated to generate approximately $145 million each and every year for California, and our bill designates nearly one-third of these funds to help our state and local fire departments obtain new or replacement fire equipment. AB X8 42 will also help fund life-saving defensible space projects throughout California.

I understand T-Ridge, and any revenue plan associated with it, is inherently controversial. I happen to believe that modern technology will be more efficient and less environmentally risky than 40 year old technology. Unlike other proposals to simply raise taxes, this new project is one of the very few truly new sources of revenue available to California during this budget cycle that will not harm our economy, and will have the added benefit of creating new jobs in California – something we desperately need.

Other proposals to fund emergency services, such as the proposal to hit every homeowner and business owner in California with a tax on their insurance policies will again have little chance of passing. Any proposal that asks California families who are earning less in this economy to pay more in taxes is a non-starter with me and many of my colleagues. But an opportunity to raise new revenues from new production is a different situation entirely.

Our economy needs a boost and $45.6 million per year is a significant boost to the statewide fire service, and will help us meet some of the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Fire Commission. It is our hope that significant portions of any revenues which T-Ridge generates will be used to aid the fire service in California. This bill, which is already supported by 30 members from the Senate and Assembly, is a vehicle to provide further funding for fire and emergency services without raising taxes and without further burdening California’s families and small businesses. AB X8 42 is good policy because it helps public safety without raising taxes.