California has been described as “the leader of the resistance,” and the “de facto climate negotiator for the United States.” These titles reflect a phenomenon happening in this state that much of the country has yearned for from Washington, D.C.: positive action for the benefit of the people.

When we had a measles outbreak in 2015, we acted to make sure school children are vaccinated. When other states put restrictions on voting rights, we worked to make voting more convenient. And in 2006, our state, in conjunction with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, established this California as a leader in greenhouse gas emissions policy when we implemented the Global Warming Solutions Act.

This landmark climate legislation set the ball in motion for what would become a global model for a cap-and-trade market aiming to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The system designed a statewide cap across industries that would slowly decline, allowing industries to work together to meet emissions goals while providing a revenue stream for important environmental initiatives.

However, when we debate the extension of our market-based cap-and-trade program, as we did last week on a failed bill, we cannot let the debate act as a referendum on legislators’ commitment to clean air and environmental justice. A vote for or against a particular bill should not be the sole determination of any legislator’s resolve to fight for cleaning up local air pollution or improving our environment.

An environmental policy so broad, costly and complex that it fails under its own weight will mean lost jobs, a suffering economy and losing our position as a global climate policy leader. A smart cap-and-trade system will support farmers, dairymen, shift workers at the refineries and average Californians who want clean air.

Using a statewide carbon market with tools like offsets and free allowances for exposed businesses will increase compliance, reduce emissions and ensure that people stay employed in California’s backbone industries, such as manufacturing, construction and farming. These measures contain the cost to consumers and businesses to allow the market to reduce emissions over time. Cost containment, allowance price stability and continued legislative oversight will work together to ensure the program’s long-term efficacy and success.

Furthermore, if we create a sustainable and functioning cap-and-trade system, we can fully fund and even expand air pollution reduction programs, such as the Carl Moyer Program and the Lower-Emission School Bus Program, that get polluting car, truck and bus engines off the road.

I have been and will continue to be an environmental justice advocate and an advocate for the health of my community. I grew up in Pacoima, an area home to working-class families who live next to freeways, an aging airport and retired landfills, and whose children go to school next to power plants. I remember as a kid how my school would cancel recesses because of bad smog and poor air quality.

These memories should never become a reality for the children of our great state. Air pollution in California is without question a problem, particularly for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, and we must address it.

I think we can all agree that we want to breathe fresh clean air and live in a healthy community. However, a balance is needed to ensure that any policy we enact supports working-class Californians, improves our environment, promotes our businesses and protects our jobs.

The elegance of a lasting and effective cap-and-trade system lies with the efficiency and flexibility of a policy that encourages emissions reductions without cutting or displacing production. This state needs thoughtful policy that will benefit both our environment and our economy.

Raul Bocanegra, D-San Fernando, is a member of the California Assembly, representing the 39th District.

Originally posted at LA Daily News.