Climate change and poor air quality present a serious threat to California’s future and demand an urgent and thoughtful policy response. So it is understandable that Californians would embrace a scheme to increase taxes on wealthy residents to fund our transition to electric vehicles.
This is the argument that supporters of Proposition 30, a statewide measure on the November ballot, continually make.
Voters should think twice. While it has been marketed as a clean-air initiative benefiting all Californians, Prop. 30 represents the worst of ballot-box budgeting. The campaign has been funded largely by a single corporation — ride-hailing giant Lyft — to secure electric vehicle subsidies from taxpayers.
The issue of how to deal with increased emissions from ride-hailing companies first entered California politics in 2018, when Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley authored Senate Bill 1014, requiring rideshare companies to electrify their vehicle fleets by 2030. The law was in response to growing concerns that drivers spent a lot of time idling or traveling without passengers and therefore generated a disproportionate amount of emissions compared to regular drivers.
Lyft actively opposed Skinner’s legislation and later lobbied the state for taxpayer subsidies to help fund the transition. The California Air Resources Board adopted regulations last year that requires rideshare companies to be emission-free by the end of the decade.
This recent history can’t be overlooked. Lyft has spent over $50 million to convince California taxpayers to help fund their regulatory requirements — rather than spend their own money to support drivers and comply with the new rules.
The proposition was deliberately written to bypass the state’s general fund and create an enormous lockbox of money that can only be spent on Prop. 30’s goals — at the expense of the entire state budget. In recent years, the state has reached its spending cap allowed by law. The commitments for electric vehicles and wildfire funding under Prop. 30 could force the state to cut other programs if the limit is reached in future years, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Prop. 30 dedicates only 20% of funds to wildfire prevention. Additionally, there is no money in the proposal for strengthening California’s electric grid, which has been under greater stress in recent years and could face more pressure if we are not careful.
Frankly, the state is already addressing the issues Prop. 30 wants to solve. Gov. Gavin Newsom has invested more than $54 billion toward climate initiatives, including $10 billion for our electric vehicle transition and an additional $810 million to strengthen the state’s firefighting capabilities. And Newsom and the Legislature made these investments while taking every stakeholder into account — from ratepayers to city and county governments to the state’s grid capacity.
The coalition against Prop. 30 is bipartisan and far-reaching, and includes nearly every major newspaper in the state. Voters should see through this unnecessary reach into California’s budget and oppose Prop. 30.
Matt Rodriguez is the founder and CEO of Rodriguez Strategies. He is currently working on the “No on Prop. 30” campaign. He wrote this for CalMatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.