Battle Over Calif. Global Warming Bill Cost $46 Million
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — More than $46 million was spent for and against a failed November ballot measure that would have suspended California's landmark global warming law, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday.
Out-of-state oil companies and their supporters spent $10.5 million promoting Proposition 23, while opponents spent more than $36 million.
The initiative would have suspended the state's 2006 greenhouse gas reduction goals until California's unemployment rate, now 12.5 percent, drops to 5.5 percent and holds there for a year. That has occurred just three times in three decades.
Voters defeated Proposition 23 by a margin of 61.6 percent to 38.4 percent.
The initiative seeking to undo California's global warming law was one of nine propositions on the November ballot, which also included a failed initiative seeking to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Supporters and opponents for all propositions faced a Monday deadline to file their final fundraising and spending reports.
Opponents of the global warming initiative were able to entice support from big business, venture capitalists, environmental groups and Hollywood notables such as movie director James Cameron by turning the petroleum industry into a villain, said Bill Day, spokesman for Valero Corp. The Texas-based company contributed more than $5 million to the campaign.
The oil companies and their supporters argued that the law will drive businesses out of state and should be delayed until the economy improves.
Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for the groups who fought Proposition 23, said the petroleum companies were overwhelmed by state and national groups that see green energy and jobs as the next wave in the California economy.
"California's business community rallied to save the fastest-growing business sector in the state," Maviglio said. "It also became a flashpoint nationally for the future of clean energy."
Schwarzenegger championed the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act as a hallmark of his administration. It made California the first state to approve greenhouse gas regulations, limiting industrial emissions beginning in 2012 and adding fossil fuel energy reductions in 2020.
In addition to rejecting the marijuana legalization, voters in November refused to enact a vehicle fee to fund state parks and repeal business tax breaks. They lowered the margin needed to approve state budgets in the Legislature from a two-thirds vote to a simple majority and gave an independent panel the authority to draw congressional districts.
The marijuana measure failed by a margin of 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent, even though proponents far outspent the opposition. It would have let adults ages 21 and older possess and grow small amounts of marijuana.
Supporters spent more than $3.2 million, including a $1 million contribution by billionaire financier George Soros a week before the vote.
By then it was too late to overcome opposition from law enforcement organizations and other opponents that spent about $423,000, said Stephen Gutwillig, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which supported the measure. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder helped defeat the measure, Gutwillig said, when he promised to vigorously enforce federal laws against marijuana possession and distribution even if the measure passed.
"It was pretty clear in the last weeks of the campaign that we were not going to have enough money to overcome those obstacles . of the smaller, older, more conservative electorate that could be counted on to vote in an off-year election," Gutwillig said.
Business and organized labor spent nearly equal amounts — in excess of $15 million each — battling over an initiative that would have repealed three corporate tax breaks.
Proposition 24 was championed by the California Teachers Association to roll back tax measures approved by the Legislature in late 2008 and early 2009. The breaks are projected to save businesses about $1.3 billion annually.
The state's largest teachers union poured $8.9 million into the campaign. The union's money was countered by corporations including Cisco Systems Inc., Genentech Inc., General Electric Co., Qualcomm Inc., The Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner.
The teachers union and other supporters said money from the tax breaks would be better spent by schools, health care and public safety. Business organizations said reinstating the old tax formulas would discourage employers from expanding.
Voters sided with the business groups, rejecting the repeal by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent.
Congressional and state legislators and their allies faced off against Charles Munger Jr., a Palo Alto physicist, in fundraising over two measures affecting how California draws political district boundaries.
Voters rejected a measure that would have abolished a commission charged with redrawing the state's legislative districts. They approved a second measure that lets the commission redraw congressional district lines as well.
Munger contributed more than $12 million of the nearly $24 million raised to support the commission and remove legislators' map-drawing powers. He gave about double the $6 million raised by those who want the Legislature to draw district lines.
Conservation and state parks organizations spent more than $10 million attempting to persuade voters to approve Proposition 21. The measure would have levied an $18 annual surcharge on motor vehicle registration to fund state parks and wildlife programs.
They still lost by a margin of 43 percent to 57 percent to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers Inc., which contributed much of the $74,000 spent to oppose the measure.
Two other measures dealt with the Legislature's budgeting:
— Proposition 25 changed the legislative vote requirement to pass a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority. Public employee unions raised $16.3 million to pass the measure, overcoming the $18.3 million spent by business opponents.
— Proposition 26 required two-thirds approval by the Legislature to raise state fees. Business groups that supported the measure prevailed after spending $18.8 million, compared with the $14.7 million spent by public employee unions and environmental groups.