Last week, two Bay Area newspapers have come out opposed to Proposition 26, the Polluter Protection Initiative on the November ballot, and have detailed the economic and environmental implications the passage of Proposition 26 would have on California. Currently, a majority vote by the State Legislature or a local government agency is required to impose a mitigation fee on a business or industry that causes harm to public health or the environment. Proposition 26 aims to make it nearly impossible for the state to collect these fees and hold polluters responsible for their pollution by classifying these fees as taxes, making them subject to a 2/3rds vote. Should this initiative pass on Election Day, some of California’s biggest polluters will no longer have to pay to clean up their messes.
The editorials, released by the Contra Costa Times and the Oakland Tribune, readdress what the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has been saying since it submitted its review of Prop 26 on July 15th. According to the LAO, the state has collected important regulatory fees that, under the proposition, could be reassessed as taxes, making it much harder for them to be approved. For example, fees on oil manufacturers, businesses that “treat, dispose of, or recycle hazardous waste”, as well as fees imposed on alcohol retailers, which all go towards positive programs that focus on education, recycling, clean up and abatement, and investments in new environmental technologies, could be lost. Passage of prop 26 also puts Assembly Bill 32, California’s landmark global warming law, in jeopardy since a key part of that program is setting a price on carbon.
Furthermore, passage of Prop 26 would make it incredibly difficult for the state to collect revenue to clean up pollution and mitigate negative health impacts; meaning California would have to find some other way to finance these important efforts. With an already over tapped state budget, that task is more than daunting.