Sacramento on Sunday wrote a new chapter in deceiving Californians as they treated the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund as the slush fund it has always been.
They decided to raid $100 million from greenhouse gas taxes wedded with another $30 million from the general fund to underwrite distressed public water systems that have failed to charge their ratepayers enough money to operate treatment plants and maintain delivery systems.
How this came about was simple. Gov. Gavin Newsom wanted everyone in California to be taxed 95 cents a month on their water bills to solve what are basically budgetary problems of public water purveyors located primarily in economically stressed parts of the mid and southern San Joaquin Valley. The legislature balked fearing the political fallout from imposing a new statewide tax when Sacramento is sitting on a $21 billion budget surplus.
As usual, lawmakers that wanted what they wanted contorted the rules to get their way by arguing it was appropriate to tap the greenhouse gas tax reduction fund because more dirty air means less clean water.
Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, called the ruse for what it was adding “people shouldn’t have to choose between clean water and clean air.”
The cap and trade program was put in place because we were told greenhouse gases were going to kill us all long before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was even in high school. We were told it was “the” top environmental priority of the state as we’d be gasping our last breaths in the near future if we didn’t get cow flatulence and other sources of pollutants under control. We are all paying for the cap and trade thanks to the stealth tax we pay at the pump for charges the oil companies have to pay for the right to pollute while running refineries to turn oil into gas.
The first clue that politicians oversold the dire state of air quality was the fact they siphoned of greenhouse gas tax revenue to help pay for the high-speed project. Based on the rate of construction compared to the Green New Deal timetable for the death of the planet unless we spend 900 zillion dollars in the next 10 years to cleanse the air, high speed rail will only reach Bakersfield before life as we know it ceases to exist.
Of course, it doesn’t matter if high speed rail gets up and running given if it does PG&E will cut the power to it for two to five days at a time.
So if you can pour 20 percent of the greenhouse gas taxes collected down the rat’s hole known as high speed rail on the dubious assumption it will reduce air pollution by allowing the well-heeled that can afford to pay the fares to zip through the serfdoms in the San Joaquin Valley so they can mingle and do business with the beautiful people that populate San Francisco and Los Angeles, dipping into the slush fund to keep water treatment plants in poor communities operating is as easy as a film-flam man hawking snake oil.
It was a heart tugger to hear people plead on Sunday that they’d chose water over air or that no one should be denied clean water or clean air.
The truth is the legislature is the reason why the question could even be posed about whether people would have to choose between clean air for many and clean water for a few.
The day before the same legislature opted to spend $98 million a year for healthcare for 90,000 undocumented immigrants in California who are between the ages of 19 and 25.
It looks like the legislature could not answer the question of what is more important — the ability of legal residents of this state to have clean water or for the residents of other nations that are not here legally to have access to health care at no cost?
Topping it off, the action on Saturday assured that the only people between 19 and 25 that won’t have universal access to free health care are those that are legal residents.
If they had resisted the urge to provide health care to a privileged segment of young adults — those that are not legal residents — and used that money sweetened by another $2 million they would have been able to come up with the $100 million for clean drinking water.
So the real question that should be asked of the legislature is why did they chose free healthcare for immigrants between the ages of 19 and 25 that are in this country illegally over the health of 6-year-old kids suffering from asthma in Bakersfield or a 65-year-old grandmother in Hanford with respiratory ailments aggravated by air quality issues?
To add to the high farce of political posturing to justify a more than dubious contortion act in raiding money explicitly levied as a tax to reduce greenhouse gases to spend on drinking water, Gov. Newsom couldn’t resist weighing in with a pious comment. The governor noted that without safe drinking water communities would have to have a lot of bottled drinking water hauled by big trucks that create congestion and pollute the air.
The truth is Newsom did not have to propose a tax nor did the legislature have to rob the cookie jar filled with greenhouse gas taxes. The state is collecting more than adequate taxes from its every day sources.
The reason they didn’t want to tap the $21 billion surplus for reoccurring expenditures is because it wouldn’t allow lawmakers ultimately to offer free health care to all undocumented migrants that would have happened this year if Newsom hadn’t resisted such a move as a budget buster.
No one had to deny anyone clean drinking water. But the decision to tap into the greenhouse gas tax receipts to do so exposes the white lies that the state’s cap and trade program is built on for the real whoppers that they are.
If methane gas is going to kill us all and the state’s 1.8 million dairy cows are doing the devil’s work every time they pass gas we can ill afford to divert $100 million a year from a crusade to save the planet for mankind. Unless, of course, we were sold at least a partial bill of goods so Sacramento could get its hands on more than $9.5 billion in greenhouse gas taxes during the past 12 years.
Sunday’s vote exposes California’s greenhouse gas tax for what it really is — just another slush fund for politicians that break their words more frequently than cows let one rip.
Both smell and both produce the same end result — manure.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.