With more than 2.3 million Californians looking for a job, I couldn’t agree more with today’s Press Enterprise editorial in support of Prop 23. Regardless of your point of view on global warming, we should all be able to agree with the fact that one state shouldn’t shoulder the economic burden of a problem that, as its name suggests, is global in nature.
Yes on 23
Now is not the time for California to push ahead with a costly, unpredictable public policy experiment. The state struggles with a weak economy and high unemployment, and should avoid steps that would likely undermine recovery. And those conditions argue for voters to approve Prop. 23 in November.
Prop. 23 would suspend AB 32, the 2006 state legislation mandating that the state cut greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to fight climate change. The proposition would postpone AB 32’s rules from taking effect until California’s unemployment rate is 5.5 percent or less for an entire year. Given the state’s economy, the measure would probably suspend the regulations for years, according to the state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst. The state’s jobless rate has only dipped to 5.5 percent or below for a year or longer three times in the past 40 years, most recently from April 2005 to Sept. 2007.
Californians might understandably be confused by the high-decibel arguments surrounding this measure. Both sides have trotted out academic studies supporting their conclusions — and conflicting wildly with the other side’s findings. Prop. 23 would save the state from sharply higher energy prices and the loss of a million jobs. Or the measure would jeopardize hundreds of thousands of jobs while killing the burgeoning green energy industry.
That wide divergence should clue voters in to a key aspect of AB 32: Predicting the economic effects of the law is tough, and requires guesses about a lot of as-yet unknown variables. The most sober assessment comes from the legislative analyst, who predicts that Prop. 23 would likely bring lower energy costs and modestly higher economic activity in California.
When statewide unemployment hovers about 12 percent, even a slightly better economy looks remarkably attractive. And California should be wary of jumping blindly into new regulations with uncertain, but potentially huge, financial consequences for workers and businesses.
Besides, greenhouse gases are an issue better handled at the national, if not international, level. Easing greenhouse gas emissions requires a coordinated national policy and broad international cooperation. A single U.S. state acting by itself can do little to affect the worldwide balance. California has no need to get out ahead of the rest of the nation — while likely putting itself at an economic disadvantage.
Opponents note that Prop. 23 is heavily funded by out-of-state special interests. Three oil-industry companies alone have poured more than $6 million into the campaign to suspend greenhouse gas regulations. But voters should decide Prop. 23 on its merits, not on who supports the measure.
That choice should focus on the most prudent approach to public policy. The state’s economy is too fragile to gamble with such large and costly unknowns. Let the federal government address greenhouse gases; California needs to concentrate on climbing back to prosperity. And voters should say yes on Prop. 23.