SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Republican lawmakers in California are circulating a ballot initiative backed by business interests that would suspend California’s landmark law to cut greenhouse gas emissions, a signature policy of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tenure.
The secretary of state’s office this week cleared the sponsors’ petition, giving them until July 5 to collect the 433,971 signatures needed to qualify it for the November ballot.
If passed by voters, the measure would suspend the 2006 law signed by Schwarzenegger until the state unemployment rate falls to 5.5 percent and stays there for a year.
The law, called the Global Warming Solutions Act but commonly referred to as AB32, mandates that California cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Republicans, some small businesses and major industries have argued since the law’s enactment that jobs could be lost, companies might leave the state and energy prices will skyrocket.
State Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, said Thursday it would be unfair to ask businesses to comply with new regulations in such a poor economy. California’s unemployment rate is 12.4 percent.
“We’ll be the only state in the country that asked our businesses to play by more expensive rules than the rest of the country,” said Logue, who noted federal legislation has stalled in Congress.
Beginning in 2012, manufacturers, cement plants, oil refineries, utilities and other polluters will be asked to start lowering their emissions or pay for the carbon they emit.
Logue said Californians’ electricity rates and gasoline bills will go up when the expenses of oil companies and utilities rise to comply with the law. He said businesses have committed $600,000 to the initiative, although he declined to identify them.
Adam Mendelsohn, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger’s campaign team, said the governor would fight the initiative if it qualifies.
“The governor obviously believes that this is a backwards idea,” Mendelsohn said. “This is essentially politicians doing the bidding of a few special interests who opposed important environmental policy.”
The California Air Resources Board, which is charged with implementing the law, has published reports showing that the state’s economy will grow more than if it did not cut emissions.
Mike Mielke, who oversees environmental policy at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said the state’s global warming law has encouraged investments in green technology and energy efficiency.
“Suspending something like AB 32, which creates this opportunity for Venture Capital investment, for businesses growth and job growth, is the wrong thing to do and is actually going to wind up costing jobs in the long-run,” said Mielke, whose group is made up primarily of business interests.
U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, who voted against the bill while he was in the state Senate, Ted Costa of People’s Advocate, a Sacramento-based organization that works to restrict government spending, are the other sponsors of the initiative.
Separately, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has said she would suspend the law if she becomes governor.
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