Voters have sent a clear message on California's leadership role in reducing energy emissions and costs.
By a 22-point margin, voters in 2010 rejected an oil industry-led voter initiative that sought to roll back implementation of the landmark Assembly Bill 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Also by a 22-point margin, voters in 2012 supported Proposition 39, which would put half of the proceeds from eliminating tax loopholes for out-of-state corporations -- about $500 million a year for five years -- into a Clean Energy Job Creation Fund for efficiency programs in public buildings.
Californians have a right to expect that the monies raised will be spent for the intended purposes.
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However, Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to betray Californians by raiding both the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and the Clean Energy Job Creation Fund -- unless legislators stop him between now and the June 15 budget deadline.
Brown is proposing to take $500 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and put it into the state's general fund. He is calling this a "one-time loan" from auction proceeds for 2012-13 and 2013-14.
Before a dime is spent on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the money would be used for other purposes, going against everything AB 32 proponents told Californians. The aim of cap and trade is not, they assured voters, to raise money for the state to solve its budget problems.
The Legislative Analyst's Office has said that "revenues from the cap-and-trade auctions must be used only to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions or the harms caused by greenhouse gas emissions."
Then there is the $500 million-a-year Clean Energy Job Creation Fund. Brown wants to count the money as general revenue, which means 40% automatically would go to fund school operations.
The LAO concludes this would be "directly contrary to what the voters were told in the official voter guide as to how the revenues would be treated." And all so unnecessary. After five years, the Clean Energy Job Creation Fund goes away and the money goes into the general fund.
Legislators considering proposals for using the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and the Clean Energy Job Creation Fund must ask: Will the money go to projects that permanently, verifiably reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency?
If not, that's an improper use they should reject.