More Money, More Pro-Environment Policy for California

Image: Wikimedia Commons

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

After being forced to make major cuts to California’s environmental programs just eight months ago, last week, Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed a $227 billion budget deal that would bolster a set of environmental initiatives. The proposal designates $4.1 billion to fight forest fires, reduce smog, and increase the adoption of clean and electric vehicles on the roads.

Why This Matters: 2020 set the record for the most land destroyed by wildfires in California in a single year. Over 2.2 million acres of land were consumed by wildfires, killing 8 people and destroying 3,300 structures. The fires burned so hot they destroyed hundreds of ancient and irreplaceable giant sequoia trees which are notoriously resistant to fire. There’s no choice but bold climate action for California. 

Despite these climate challenges, California leads other states when it comes to cutting carbon emissions; households in California produce 33% less carbon than any other state. But Newsom believes there is room for improvement and thanks to some smart budgeting and a progressive tax structure, the state now has a $15 billion budget surplus. His proposal includes:

  • $384 million to support sustainable agricultural programs that fight climate change,
  • $300 million for toxic waste cleanup in communities facing high public health risks,
  • $512 million for forest management, 
  • and 30 fire crews with 15 members per crew, new air tankers, helicopters, and equipment.

In a shocking twist, politicians, experts, and advocates largely agree that this budget is a step in the right direction: 

“The reality is we are not able to fight these climate-driven fires anywhere near what our expectations were. Our experience shows us that we have to do more on prevention. And I believe that this budget does that.”California State Senator Bill Dodd

“We barely have a budget to keep the lights on. Imagine if we had $107 million to do reforestation, thinning, and prescribed fire.”Eric La Price, Western Divide District Ranger, Sequoia National Forest

“When you compare the human and economic cost of fire suppression and recovery to the costs of proactive forest management that reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfire, there’s no contest: Prevention is the smarter, more economically and environmentally responsible choice every time…I applaud the Governor for launching that shift today.” Sam Hodder, Chief Executive Officer, Save the Redwoods League

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate advocates worried that depleted state coffers would mean California might have fewer resources to meet its ambitious climate goals. Yet through the ordeal, Governor Newsom has been strategic about signaling that he will continue to fight for a climate agenda. .In September, he signed an order banning the sale of new gasoline cars by 2035, making California the first state in the nation to set this type of tangible emissions reductions goal.

 

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