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Why SanDiego350 is Neutral on Proposition 30

Augusta Lewis, SanDiego350 Intern

Illustration of one bright green car on grey roads with many grey cars
Image royalty-free via DepositPhotos.com

Most of the initiatives on the November ballot this year that affect climate or environmental issues were relatively straightforward calls for SanDiego350. But Proposition 30, which would increase taxes on the wealthy to fund electric vehicle incentives and wildfire prevention programs, was a tougher call. In the end, SanDiego350 weighed the pros and cons and settled on a neutral position. Read on to learn about the details of this controversial initiative.

First things first; here is what Prop 30 does:

  • Increase the tax on personal income above $2 million by 1.75% and dedicate revenue to zero-emission projects and wildfire prevention programs.
  • 80% of the total revenue will be used to help households, businesses and governments pay for part of the cost of new zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and part will go to charging infrastructure. Half of the money will be spent on projects that benefit people who live in or near heavily polluted areas and low-income communities.
  • Increase the total funding for ZEVs in California by $2.8 to $4 billion annually.
  • 20% of the total revenue will be spent on wildfire response and prevention.
  • Increase state funding for wildfire response and prevention by $700 million to $1 billion annually.

When considered outside any context, these measures are all positive steps. After all, transportation is one of the main drivers of greenhouse gas emissions, and electric vehicles produce no emissions at the point of use. And funding for wildfire prevention is sorely needed, as climate change-fueled fires grow more devastating and costly by the year.

But here’s what Prop 30 doesn’t do. It doesn’t fund public transit. And so it doesn’t drive a mode shift away from personal automobiles towards transit, which is what SanDiego350 believes is required to reduce energy and resource consumption sufficiently to limit global warming, ecosystem destruction, and displacement of Indigenous peoples, as well as to reimagine urban design to be more just, equitable, and fair, especially for low-income communities of color.

In short: electric cars are great. But transit is better. Read on to learn about SanDiego350’s decision-making process and the dive into the details of our members’ concerns with Proposition 30.

Our Process:

SanDiego350 uses a modified consensus process to reach decisions. This means that any decision like an endorsement must endeavor to achieve consensus and hear perspectives and concerns of the relevant teams. Every effort is made to address concerns and achieve consensus. If our members cannot reach a consensus, we offer members who disagree with the proposed decision the opportunity to stand aside, and if that fails we move to a majority vote. SanDiego350 used this process to make this decision.

Our Legislative and Transportation teams met to discuss this proposition, and our process uncovered three significant concerns with the bill’s priorities and implementation that prevented us from endorsing the measure.

Problem #1 – No Funding for Transit

SanDiego350 believes that this proposition missed an opportunity to put desperately needed funding into public transit. Twenty percent of San Diegans cannot afford a car and will not be able to afford a ZEV even with rebates. These residents have no alternative to an underfunded transit system that limits their access to employment, health care, food, recreation, and life opportunities. A truly climate-focused initiative would not perpetuate car-centric strategies.

Moreover, Governor Newsom already signed a $10 billion dollar ZEV package this past January. This funding targets the same areas as Prop 30, including rebates and charging stations, and has a specific focus on low-income communities. However, the plan signed by the Governor does not have the potential for diverting funds from other programs and includes a more holistic approach to benefiting low-income communities. Additionally, the recently passed federal Inflation Reduction Act includes significant funding for electric vehicle infrastructure.

So while Prop 30 does target funds for ZEVs and charging infrastructure to low-income communities, SanDiego350’s position is that funding to create reliable and convenient public transit would be more ecologically and socially beneficial and should be prioritized.

Problem #2 – Limited Sources of Funds

The California Constitution limits state spending. Some of the expenditure required by Prop 30 would count towards this limit and could result in the state having to reduce funding for other crucial programs. 

This is why the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers oppose this initiative. Proposition 30 puts income tax dollars into a dedicated fund for ZEVs instead of the general fund, which requires that 40% of funds are dedicated to education. That means that this would lower the proportion of total state spending going to education. The California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers are most concerned that none of the income tax revenue raised with Prop 30 will be set aside for funding education.

Problem #3 – Lyft Loves Prop 30

Sometimes in politics, strange alliances are formed. But when you find yourself on the same side as a corporation like Lyft, which mislabeled its drivers as independent contractors to evade labor rules, it’s worth questioning why. Lyft has contributed $25 million to the “Yes on 30” campaign after Governor Newsom mandated that all rideshare services use ZEVs for 90% of their customer miles driven by 2030. Lyft is in favor of this proposition because it will not have to spend as much money helping its drivers shift to ZEVs and building charging infrastructure.

Prop 30 would also use taxation to support the business model of a profitable corporation. Lyft has a concerning background as it lobbied for Proposition 22 in 2020 which denied workers benefits and lowered wages. Lyft would not be contributing so much money to this campaign if it  did not expect a profitable return on its investment.

Conclusion

More investment in ZEV rebates and charging infrastructure and funding for wildfire prevention and protection are positive and needed for California to reach its environmental goals. However, this proposition may not be the most effective path to reach those goals.

As a result, SanDiego350, along with other environmental groups like the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) and the Sierra Club, has decided to remain neutral, and we encourage our members to choose their own position after considering all the details and arguments from both the supporting and opposing sides.

No matter what you choose, don’t forget to vote on or before November 8th!