Initiative to increase the income tax to fund zero-emission vehicles and wildfire prevention programs in California files signatures 

The California secretary of state reported that Clean Air California, the campaign behind initiative #21-0037, submitted signatures on May 16. The number of signatures required to place the initiative on the November ballot is 623,212, which is equal to 5% of the votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election.

The initiative proposes a new law to increase the income tax by an additional 1.75% on income above $2 million for individuals. It would take effect on Jan. 1, 2023, and end on Jan. 1, 2043, or, beginning in 2030, on Jan. 1 following three consecutive years in which greenhouse gas emissions were at least 80% below 1990 levels.

The initiative would create the Clean Cars and Clean Air Trust Fund (CCCATF). The money in the CCCATF would be allocated to three sub-funds created by the initiative:

  • 35% to the Zero-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Investment Plan Sub-Fund;
  • 45% to the Zero-Emission Vehicle and Clean Mobility Sub-Fund; and
  • 20% to the Wildfire Green House Gas Emissions Reduction Sub-Fund.

The initiative would require that half of the money in the zero-emission vehicle sub-funds go to projects and financial incentives in low-income communities. Funds are required to be used on zero-emission vehicle charging stations and infrastructure.

The funds in the Wildfire Green House Gas Emissions Reduction Sub-Fund would be allocated to CalFire and the state fire marshal to fund the hiring and training of firefighters; purchasing of wildfire detection and monitoring systems; improving fire suppression in fire-prone communities; improving defensible spaces around homes and communities; awarding grants for retrofitting homes in low-income communities; and supporting forest resilience programs and other forestry management.

Clean Air California reported $8.42 million in contributions according to its latest campaign finance filings. The committee’s top donors are Lyft ($8 million), the California State Association of Electrical Workers ($51,000), and Elect Climate Champions Fund ($51,000).

Veda Banerjee, communications director for California Environmental Voters, said, “The Clean Cars, Clean Air Act cuts right to the heart of the climate crisis in our state. And so far, the biggest threats of this crisis have been shouldered by the most underserved populations. We heartily support this historic approach — one that embraces science and builds equity — and look forward to our partnership within this coalition.”

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association has come out in opposition to the initiative. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said, “We already have some of the highest taxes in the country. A lot of the air pollution in Southern California could be eliminated by spending transportation dollars on freeway improvements to reduce traffic jams. If these proposals are really priorities, they should be paid for out of the existing general fund.”

Signatures are first filed with local election officials, who determine the total number of signatures submitted. If the total number is equal to at least 100 percent of the required signatures, then local election officials perform a random check of signatures submitted in their counties. If the random sample estimates that more than 110 percent of the required number of signatures are valid, the initiative is eligible for the ballot. If the random sample estimates that between 95 and 110 percent of the required number of signatures are valid, a full check of signatures is done to determine the total number of valid signatures. 

The average number of initiatives filed in California between 2010 and 2020 was about 87 initiatives with an average of 10 being certified for the ballot. A total of 53 initiatives were filed for the 2022 ballot. Three have qualified for the ballot.

Additional reading: