California voters will likely decide whether to spend billions to protect state from fires, floods and heat waves

Massive forest fires. deadly flood. record heat wave. historic drought.

Over the past decade, California has repeatedly experienced the devastating effects of climate change, or “steroid weather,” causing billions of dollars in damage and dozens of lives.

Now, in what could be the biggest environmental measure ever set in California’s state ballot, lawmakers in Sacramento are willing voters to open up their wallets to beef up the state’s defenses ahead of next year’s election. It is drafting a $15 billion “climate bond” to test whether there is. .

Two similar bills are moving forward in Congress with broad support from the Democratic majority and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Both have provided billions of dollars in new funding for thinning forests, promoting flood control projects, planting trees to keep cities cooler, and expanding renewable energy, helping scientists understand how global warming will last for generations to come. It will take other steps to deal with the climate that it says will continue.

“This is the first attempt of its kind to address climate change across California,” said Sen. Josh Becker (D-San Mateo), a co-author of one of the bills. “This winter we have seen the effects of flooding. Route 84 in my area is still closed. There is nothing pristine in this state.”

and PPIC Poll Last July, 72% of registered voters in California said the impacts of climate change were already underway in the state. The breakdown was 81% for Democrats, 73% for independents, and 45% for Republicans.

But will voters approve funding to mitigate the impacts of climate change?

Last November, New York voters overwhelmingly approved a $4.2 billion climate bond, 67% to 33%, giving California lawmakers a roadmap for creating a West Coast version.

A New York bill, endorsed by Governor Kathy Hochul, would fund a range of projects. This includes flood control to combat rising sea levels in areas such as New York City and Long Island Sound. renewable energy; protection of extended parks, farmlands and open spaces; Other initiatives include purchasing zero-emission school buses and opening city cooling centers during heatwaves.

“This was an encouraging sign,” said Jerry Merall, who served as deputy commissioner of the California Natural Resources Agency under Gov. Jerry Brown.

Most of California’s park and water bonds have been passed since 1928, when voters approved a $6 million bill to create a modern state park system, Meral noted. These funds purchased native sequoias on the north coast, parts of Mount Diablo, and sandy beaches enjoyed by millions today.

Wind turbines stand in a field near Palm Springs, California on March 22, 2023. In 2022, electricity generated from renewable energy in the United States will surpass coal for the first time, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, file) Ashley Landis/Associated Press

But there are also warning signs for proponents of climate bonds on the California ballot.

In March 2020, Proposition 13, which would have raised $15 billion for kindergartens, K-12 schools, community colleges and state universities, was defeated by voters by 55-45%.

Some political commentators attributed the failure to its name, “Proposition 13,” which caused confusion with the famous 1978 ballot act of the same name that cut property taxes. However, some say the price is too high.

“I’m still traumatized by it. It’s very scary,” Meral said. Mr. Meral was the lead creator of another bill voters narrowly defeated, Proposition 3, an $8.7 billion water bond. “The campaign was strong, but it also failed.”

Generally speaking, most of California’s largest environmental groups are listed as backers of two climate bond bills. SB867Sen. Ben Allen, Democrat Redondo Beach, AB 1567Rep. Eduardo Garcia, Coachella Democratic Party.

The green groups were angry when Newsom cut the size of his five-year climate plan from $54 billion last year to $48 billion this year to try to close the state’s budget deficit. They see ties as a way to make up for that cut.

State parks in California are also in need of funding after being hit hard by this winter’s massive storms. State parks across California suffered at least $210 million in damage. President Joe Biden visited the remains of Seacliff State Beach, where campgrounds and piers were destroyed, and parks in Big Sur, where boardwalks and bridges remain closed.

Paul Ringgold, conservation director for San Francisco’s Save the Sequoia League, said the state park system has $1.2 billion in deferred maintenance outstanding, while climate change bonds will strengthen flood control and reduce fire hazards. said it could help reduce it while mitigating .

“Climate change doesn’t happen after you die,” he said. “It is happening right now. We are seeing the impact of record wildfires and record temperatures. It will be good.”

Aerial view of vehicles driving through the re-emerged floodwaters of Lake Tulea in California's Central Valley near Corcoran, California on April 27, 2023.  (Photo credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Aerial view of vehicles driving through the re-emerged floodwaters of Lake Tulea in California’s Central Valley near Corcoran, California on April 27, 2023. (Photo credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Critics, however, argue that states should not borrow to fund such programs.

Bonds are like loans. Issued by corporations, states, cities, local governments, and federal governments to raise funds, and purchased by investors. Just as a homebuyer takes a mortgage from a bank and pays it back with interest over many years, the investor will be paid back with interest over a long period of time.

“There’s a whole other question about what the project is, whether it’s needed, and how it’s going to be paid for,” said Susan Shelley, a spokesperson for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association in Sacramento. rice field. “Bonds are the most expensive way to pay for things. It will happen.”

Newsom and congressional leaders have until Sept. 14, the last day of the legislative session, to finalize the text of the bill, consolidate it into a single package, and decide whether the bill will go to a vote in March or November. need to decide. Housing and homelessness issues are also vying for money and voting space. California voters will likely decide whether to spend billions to protect state from fires, floods and heat waves

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