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Will Prop. 23 Hurt California’s Economy Or Help It?


Proposition 23 on the November ballot would suspend California's greenhouse gas emissions law. Opponents say that could hurt the creation of jobs in San Diego and throughout the state, but the Yes on 23 campaign says the measure would save existing jobs.

Proposition 23 on the November ballot would suspend California's greenhouse gas emissions law. Opponents say that could hurt the creation of jobs in San Diego and throughout the state, but the Yes on 23 campaign says the measure would save existing jobs.

The California Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, requires a reduction in the state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Proposition 23 would put the law on hold until California's unemployment rate is 5.5 percent or lower for four consecutive quarters.

Opponents of Proposition 23 say that's happened only three times in the past 30 years. They said if the measure passes it will increase the unemployment rate and hinder innovation.

But the Yes on 23 campaign said the measure won't cost jobs -- it will save them.

"Without Proposition 23 to protect jobs in California we'll lose over a million of them because of new regulations about to be enforced to implement California's global warming law," said Anita Mangels, communications director for the Yes on Proposition 23 campaign.

"The reason for this is that those new regulations will drive energy costs sky high and those in turn will make it more expensive for employers to both keep the lights on and make payroll," said Mangels.

The proposition is titled "California Jobs Initiative," but opponents call that misleading.

"The last number I saw there are more than 40,600 people working in green and clean tech companies in San Diego and Imperial Counties," said Jim Waring, chairman of CleanTECH San Diego.

Waring said suspending AB 32 may send green tech investment money to other states or countries.

"We talk to companies that move here because they see potential to grow their businesses here because we have this framework,” said Waring. “So if Proposition 23 were to pass, the air would go out of that balloon, if you will."

One of those companies is Kai BioEnergy. The Hawaii company produces bio crude oil from micro-algae and has an office in San Diego.

"We are here because California has always been on the leading edge of innovation and if California doesn't step up for the leadership, companies will innovate somewhere else," said Mario Larach, CEO of Kai BioEnergy.

That's exactly what worries CleanTECH's Waring.

"I was talking to someone from Massachusetts last week and that's probably our biggest U.S. competitor for jobs,” said Waring. “And he tongue-in-cheek laughed and said 'Well, if Proposition 23 passes let everyone know we'll take the jobs in the clean and green technology that California will lose.'"

Most of the funding for the Yes campaign comes from two large Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro.

Mangels with Yes on Proposition 23 said the oil companies also operate in California.

"The two companies that the opponents like to single out happen to be employers in California, who have California facilities, employ thousands of Californians and pay millions of dollars in taxes to California," said Mangels.

Support for Proposition 23 comes from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, The National Federation of Independent Business, San Diego Tax Fighters and other organizations.

Opponents of Proposition 23 include corporations and businesses ranging from Google to Sempra Energy.

“We believe it (AB 32) plays a critical role in helping California develop a low-carbon, cleantech economy,” said Doug Kline of Sempra Energy. “The law has actually helped spur clean technology investment, increased green innovation and job creation as well as cleaner air.”

But the California director for Americans for Prosperity, David Spady, said AB 32 is a bad idea.

"It's completely unrealistic to force that on California, it's completely unrealistic to force it on the American people,” said Spady. “And jobs will leave California and they will leave the United States and go other places if the United States takes an AB 32 approach to energy."

The No on Proposition 23 committee is co-chaired by George Shultz, the former U.S. Secretary of State under President Reagan.

Shultz said delaying the law could hurt research efforts into alternative fuel sources which could lead to reduced dependence on imported oil.

"So there's been a virtual explosion of research, development, venture work of one kind or another,” said Shultz. “And if we keep at it we're going to get somewhere because this is playing from our strength as Americans and I might say Californians."

Politics does make for strange bedfellows: Shultz also chairs Republican Meg Whitman's campaign for Governor. Whitman has said she'd suspend AB 32 for at least one year if elected. Her Democratic challenger Jerry Brown is against Proposition 23.

California's voters get the final say on November 2.

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