With newly minted Democratic Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula by her side and Republican Jim Patterson sitting on the committee, Mayor Ashley Swearengin on Wednesday made her case to state legislators that economically disadvantaged Fresno does not get enough cap-and-trade money from the state.
The cap-and-trade program is part of Assembly Bill 32, the state’s 2006 emissions-reducing law. An estimated $2 billion annually is generated by companies that pay for pollution credits under the state’s greenhouse gas reduction program.
Swearengin and Arambula, who last month was elected to fill the remaining seven months of former Assemblyman Henry Perea’s term, told an Assembly budget committee that Fresno has only received $9 million from that pot of money.
They are hoping for more. Considerably more.
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The Valley deserves our fair share of these funds.
Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Kingsburg
Swearengin and Arambula asked for $375 million – $75 million annually for five years – that would be used for public infrastructure programs in Fresno.
“The Valley deserves our fair share of these funds,” Arambula said.
In doing so, both cited data from the California Environmental Protection Agency that showed Arambula’s 31st Assembly District – which includes much of south and west Fresno – was the state’s most disadvantaged community with challenges including poverty, poor air quality and polluted water.
Cap-and-trade money, Swearengin said, is supposed to be targeted to disadvantaged communities.
“We’d like to see the dollars flow for the next five years,” she said. “We were setting that conversation up.”
The hope is getting money in the upcoming budget, which will be approved in mid-June, or possibly later in the summer when cap-and-trade funds are awarded.
Swearengin said the money would be spent mostly in the downtown area and largely on transit, including a multimodal transportation center. Money would also go to open space, road improvements and the push to create an additional 1,200 housing units downtown.
The big push is to have infrastructure improvements around the city’s proposed high-speed rail station.
All projects, Swearengin said, would be consistent with the city’s recently updated General Plan and the Fulton Corridor Specific Plan. She hopes to list specific projects over the next several months.
“We congratulated ourselves on the policy,” Swearengin said, “but we need significant infrastructure dollars to implement this.”