climate in crisis

Proponents of Clean Cars and Clean Air Act Target November Ballot

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Tax the rich to save the planet.

That’s the sell from proponents of a California initiative you could be voting on this year.

To help prevent wildfires, cut down the number of smoky days, and build more electric vehicle infrastructure, activists say the Clean Cars and Clean Air Act is needed.

“It tackles pollution issues, and our two biggest sources of pollution in the state are transportation and wildfires,” said Mary Creasman, CEO of California Environmental Voters. 

If passed, it would increase taxes by 1.75% on individuals or couples making more than $2 million per year. So they would pay at least an extra $35,000 each year for up to 20 years.

Organizers say it could generate $4 billion or more, divided in three different ways:

  • 45% would fund rebates and other incentives for new zero-emission and electric vehicle purchases
  • 35% for EV charging stations and half of that would go to low-income communities
  • 20% on wildfire prevention and suppression programs with priority given to hiring and training firefighters

“It was the U.N. panel on climate change that said, look, we need our governments, we need our leaders to be acting quicker with more urgency because the truth is we have until 2030 to make massive changes to our infrastructure and economy to avoid the worst,” Creasman said.  

Mark Hinkle is the president of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association and said the state should use its multibillion-dollar budget surplus – instead of raising taxes.

“You know, it’s always clean air, police and fire,” said Hinkle. “It’s never bureaucracy, which of course is what this will be creating. ... In California, we’ve already lost one congressional seat by out-migration. I suspect a lot of millionaires and billionaires when they look at the tax structure of California and say, ‘You know what, I’m better off moving to Texas like Elon Musk.’” 

NBC Bay Area’s political analyst Larry Gerston says Californians passed a similar tax on the rich in 2004 -- 1% for mental health services. 

“It would not surprise me to see it pass because why not tax those who are making so much money. That’s how Californians feel at least," said Gerston.

San Francisco-based ride-hailing company Lyft has provided the most funds to the pro-side so far.

Organizers expect they’ll have enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot within the next few weeks.

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