Initiative to increase the income tax to fund zero-emission vehicles and wildfire prevention programs in California qualifies for the ballot

On June 28, 2022, the California secretary of state reported that an initiative to increase the tax on personal income above $2 million by 1.75% and dedicate revenue to zero-emission vehicle projects and wildfire prevention programs had qualified for the November ballot.

Clean Air California, the campaign behind the initiative, filed 990,608 raw signatures. The final random sample count concluded that 720,238 signatures were valid. The initiated state statute needed 623,212 signatures to qualify for the ballot. 

If approved, the new tax 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 Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated that the additional tax would generate between $3 billion to $4.5 billion annually.

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.

Bill Magavern, one of the authors of the initiative, said, “We need to protect the health of Californians. California needs to step up to protect its own. The state is doing a lot to reduce harmful emissions but the budget, even with the governor making the commitment he has, is insufficient to address these problems.”

The initiative has received opposition from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Teachers Association. 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.”

The initiative is the eighth to qualify for the ballot. The deadline to withdraw from the ballot is June 30th. California voters will also be deciding on ballot measures related to a constitutional right to abortion and contraception, sports betting, plastic waste reduction, K-12 art and music education funding, dialysis clinic requirements, and a flavored tobacco products ban.

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. Seven have qualified for the ballot. The other ballot measure that will appear on the November ballot was referred by the state legislature.

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