Kathryn Phillips, SIERRA CLUB CALIFORNIA
Governor Gavin Newsom released his May revision of his January budget proposal today and environmental quality is among the revised budget’s most hard-hit victims.
Since January, the state has suffered a dramatic shutdown in economic activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current budget estimate by the Department of Finance continues to be that the state will suffer a $54.3 billion deficit.
In his May revision, the governor proposes cutting general fund contributions to the California Environmental Protection Agency by more than 94 percent. That agency houses departments and boards that oversee air pollution control, water quality, and pesticide and toxic substance control.
Moreover, about $83 million in funds collected by the California Air Resources Board from fees and settlements from polluters will be shifted over to the Department of Toxic Substance Control and the State Water Board “to reduce costs” for those two entities.
The May budget proposal also eliminates a biodiversity program proposed in January, and raids a fund for habitat conservation to spend the money for other purposes.
The proposal mentions that $995 million in funds from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds collected through the cap-and-trade program will be prioritized for a list of programs. It is unclear whether those programs will include funding for incentives to accelerate transition of diesel and gas buses and heavy-duty trucks to zero-emission electric trucks and buses.
Statement of Kathryn Phillips, Director of Sierra Club California:
“Nobody envies this governor or legislature for the job they need to do in this tragic year to balance the state’s budget.
“But cutting and shifting funds away from key environmental programs that will protect the basic needs of life—clean air, clean water, healthy ecosystems—is the wrong approach.
“We look forward to working with the legislature to refine this budget to make sure it doesn’t slow the march toward a healthy environment for everyone in California.”