California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lashed out yesterday at the well-funded movement to pass Proposition 23, a ballot referendum that seeks to block his state’s landmark emissions law, which is scheduled to go into effect next year. Schwarzenegger called the energy industry-funded Prop 23 campaign “a corruption of the democratic process” and accused Texas oil companies like Valero Energy and Tesoro Corp. of attempting to “sabotage this country’s economic future for private gain.”
The governor spoke at the Commonwealth Club of Santa Clara, on the anniversary of the passage of The Global Warming Solutions Act (or AB 32,)the legislation that the “Yes on 23” campaign is seeking stop. Signed into law in 2006, AB 32 gave the California Air Resources Board sweeping new powers to regulate emissions, and set the stage for the creation of a regional cap and trade system that would be the first of its kind in North America.
Opponents of the law have raised at least $8.2 million dollars from mostly out-of-state sources to promote Propostion 23 as a “jobs bill,” arguing that AB 32 would lead to more than 1 million layoffs if it is allowed to go into effect next year. But Schwarzenegger and a coalition of hundreds of business groups throughout the state disagree.
“They are creating a shell argument that they are doing this to protect jobs,” the governor said yesterday. “Does anybody really believe these companies out of the goodness of their black oil hearts are spending millions and millions of dollars to save jobs?”
Meanwhile, Californians can expect to be deluged with advertisements both in support of and against Proposition 23 from now until the election. Both sides launched new ad campaigns this week, beginning what is likely to be one of the most well-financed battles over a ballot initiative the state has ever seen.
The “Yes on 23” spot, which first aired during the California gubernatorial debates on Tuesday, doesn’t argue against the existence of global warming or the need to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but that those measures should be delayed until the economy recovers. The ad neglects to mention that the 5.5 percent unemployment level that would be needed to re-trigger AB 32 if the Prop 23 were to pass, has been achieved just three times in the last 40 years.
But oil companies aren’t the only business interests who are spending big to get their message out on the issue. The green tech industry, led by Silicon Valley startups like Tesla and Solaris, has been instrumental in raising more than $1.8 million to protect AB 32 in just the last two weeks—compared to the $6,500 their opponents raised over the same period.
Polling on the measure’s chances has been decidedly mixed from the beginning, with the most recent findings from The Los Angeles Times and The Field Poll showing a 2 point lead and 9 point deficit for Prop 23, respectively. Regardless of where the polls stand now, it will be the roughly 20 percent of voters who are still undecided on the issue that will decide the fate of Prop 23—with organizers on both sides racing to raise the funds they will need to sway those undecideds between now and November.