Ultimate Bait and Switch? Prop 26 Backers Quietly Hiding Behind Public Outcry on Prop 23

What do Philip Morris, Chevron, Anheuser-Busch, and ConocoPhillips have in common? They’re all enjoying the darkened recess in which their anti-taxpayer, anti-public health, anti-environmental Proposition 26 is hiding while Prop 23 steals the spotlight (and most of the good guys’ contributions) in the battle over clean tech in California.  And they’re all supporting it by more than half a million dollars, with Chevron leading the way with $3.75M in donations for the Yes on 26 campaign, according to Maplight.Org.  Supporters of Prop 26 have spent $16M compared to less than $5M spent by opponents of Prop 26.

I could tell you about why we need to vote no on Proposition 26, but do I really need to?  When Chevron and Philip Morris are piling contributions on a particular piece of legislation (or a politician for that matter), you can pretty much assume it’s dastardly. The thing that really gets me is how quiet this campaign has been. The backers of Prop 26 have even paired it with Prop 25 in a sort of “Follow the peanut under the clamshell” street performer routine.  It’s clear they’re relying on confusion, because the Proposition itself is just plain shameful.

From Jay Kimball’s recent article,

Prop 26 would make it more difficult for state and local government to impose mitigation fees on business activities that cause harm to the environment or public health and safety. For example, fees imposed on tobacco companies to fund health-related programs, on industries for toxic waste cleanup and on alcohol retailers for law enforcement. In other words, when companies do us harm, through increased pollution, health risk, toxic waste, and crime, Prop 26 shifts the cost of those problems to the tax payer, and away from those businesses that caused the problem.”

How is this accomplished?  By requiring a 2/3 vote for any fee imposed on an offending company who harms public health.  Yes, California is progressive, but there are more than 1/3 of the minority party here in California who have steadfastly opposed anything pushed forth by the majority party. In recent years, this has meant a catastrophic (and annually recurring) delay in getting a budget signed.  You can only imagine that getting any fees for transgressions past a minority Republican party aligned heavily with oil and gas interests and working in uniform lockstep opposition to anything in the public interest will be quite difficult.

So who will pay the bill when these cleanups are necessary or when an outbreak of public health issues occur?  The taxpayer.

Doubt it?  Why else would Chevron be dumping almost $4M into this campaign?

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Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill) and Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com

Scott Cooney, Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched GreenBusinessOwner.com, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.