Proposition 23 would temporarily suspend AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, until the state's unemployment rate drops below 5.5 percent. AB 32 requires the state's greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 1990 levels by the year 2020, with further reductions in later years.
Prop. 23 proponents claim that AB 32 will cost the state over 1,000,000 jobs and lead to energy tax increases. Read more about their side here.
Opponents of Prop. 23 claim that the initiative was put on the ballot by Texas oil companies to kill clean energy and air pollution standards that would be expensive to their industry. Read more about their side here.
Rather than listening to the two sides duke it out in 30-second ads, perhaps a more useful tool for discerning the goals of the measure can be found in analyzing who is spending money for and against it. This is not a good exercise just for Proposition 23, by the way; campaign finance data is always a good gauge of the true motivations behind ballot measures.
Who is spending in favor of Proposition 23?
According to the California Secretary of State's web site, there is just one committee registered in favor of Prop. 23, the California Jobs Initiative Committee, a Coalition of Taxpayers, Employers, Food Producers, Energy, Transportation and Forestry Companies. Most of the industries mentioned in the committee's name play a minor financial role in the campaign. The heavy weight is carried by the energy industry. Of the more than $8.2 million raised so far, $7.5 million, or 91 percent, comes from the energy industry. Nearly 80 percent of the total raised comes from just three contributors:
- Valero, a Texas oil refiner, has contributed $4,059,678
- Tesoro, a California-based refiner, has contributed $1,525,000
- Flint Hills Resources, a Kansas refiner owned by Koch Industries, has contributed $1,000,000
Who is spending against Proposition 23?
A total of eight committees opposing Prop. 23 are registered with the Secretary of State. The major player is No on 23, Californians to Stop the Dirty Energy Proposition. Sponsored by Environmental Organizations and Business for Clean Energy and Jobs. This committee has raised just over $6.7 million. (Of the remaining seven committees, two report no fundraising, four have raised $100,000 or less, and the fifth, sponsored by the National Resources Defense Council, has turned over most of its contributions to the No on 23 committee.)
Cleantech investment and venture capital firms are contributing heavily to the "no" side. The single largest contribution so far has come from hedge fund manager Thomas Steyer, who gave $2.5 million. Environmental and community foundations have given as well, and there are many more individual contributions to the "no" side than the "yes" side. The construction, solar energy and real estate industries have contributed in smaller amounts.