Capitol Alert

Report: California cap-and-trade bills seek billions more than available

In this Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007 file photo, the sun sets behind an oil refinery on Rosedale Highway, in Bakersfield, Calif.
In this Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007 file photo, the sun sets behind an oil refinery on Rosedale Highway, in Bakersfield, Calif. AP

California lawmakers have proposed spending billions more in cap-and-trade money than is likely to be available, according to a report compiled by an advocacy organization critical of the climate program.

Under the state’s system for curbing greenhouse gases, businesses must buy emissions credits. Revenue from those auctions flow into a state fund that can be used for projects that further reduce carbon emissions. A previous budget deal dedicated much of the money to affordable housing, transit and the high-speed rail project.

Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators have not yet agreed on how to spend what Senate budget officials estimate to be over $2.7 billion available this year, having agreed during budget talks to divide up the cap-and-trade fund later.

Legislators weighed in early and often this year with bills dictating where the growing fund could be spent. According to an analysis by the California Taxpayers Association, legislators have floated 23 bills that would allocate a whopping total of $4.8 billion.

It’s not just an academic exercise for the California Taxpayers Association, which opposes some of the bills – including measures to spend money on river cleanup projects or on renewable energy for low-income homes – as improper uses of the cap-and-trade money. The group filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit challenging cap-and-trade’s constitutionality.

In a world of finite revenue, Sacramento policymakers regularly have to pare back spending proposals. In deciding this May which bills would advance from and which were too costly to move on, the Assembly Appropriations Committee considered $17.4 billion worth of proposals and let out a package costing a total of $435 million.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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