Tuesday, January 8, 2008

State of the State Address Misses Opportunities

While we had hoped that Governor Schwarzenegger would use the State of the State to roll out important new programs regarding green chemistry and better fire planning, the speech was largely devoid of details.

As expected, the Governor led with last Fall’s tragic Southern California wildfires. One of the key lessons from those fires is that we need to get smarter about how and where we build. If local governments continue to approve building projects in areas where the state is expected to provide fire protection, costs and loss of life will continue to increase. Rather than describing a vision of proactive planning to protect lives as well as wildlands, the Governor focused exclusively on thanking the heroes. We join in lauding the Californians who stepped up during the crisis, but we were hoping for more proactive planning to prevent future crises.

Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger continues to push for the building of more expensive dams as a solution to California's water problems. The Governor's insistence on new dams has lead to a stalemate with the Legislature, which favors investments in water conservation, water recycling and groundwater cleanup. We hope that the Governor will work with the Legislature on solutions to our state's water problems that do not involve new dams.

On the bright side, environmentalists are always pleased to hear the Governator repeat his promise to sue the Bush Administration as often as necessary to obtain the waiver necessary for California’s clean-car standards to take effect.

Environmentalists who had heard that new initiatives to address toxins in consumer products or the plastics choking our oceans might appear in the State of the State speech were disappointed, as Schwarzenegger missed an opportunity to put those problems high on his agenda. The Governor did make a general promise to put forward “many” legislative proposals on energy and the environment, but offered no specifics as to what they may be. (During his four-plus years in office, Schwarzenegger has so far made very few legislative proposals of his own, preferring to respond to the bills initiated by legislators.)

The Governor’s proposal for a Strategic Growth Council has the admirable purpose of bringing together his administration’s economic development programs with its environmental sustainability concerns; during this and previous administrations, growth and sustainability have too often been considered in isolation from each other. But the administration needs to provide more details on how this council will allocate bond funds, and needs to make sure that it respects the wishes of the voters who approved the bonds and that it works with the Legislature on appropriating the money.

1 comment:

Irvin Dawid said...

Missing the environmental opportunities such as fire and water planning may pale in significance to the fiscal omissions, primarily the Governor's refusal to consider raising taxes, relying solely on "cut, cut, and more cuts".

From today's Roundup: (CapitolBasement.com)

"The governor made clear that he would not raise Californians' taxes – as Democrats have demanded he consider – and defended his 2003 multibillion- dollar tax cut on vehicles in California, because "it's not fair to punish people who can barely afford the gas to get to work, and on top of that ask them to pay for a tax increase to cover Sacramento's overspending," reports Kevin Yamamura in the Bee.

I would add that his cutting the so-called 'car tax' (correctly called the "Vehicle License Fee") in 2003 disproportionately benefited those who own expensive cars and SUVs (yes, including Hummers) rather than the working person's aging, compact vehicle that are worth far less, thus taxed less)

The San Jose Mercury was more blunt:

Editorial: Schwarzenegger's approach to deficit a cop-out

The result of a one-sided approach to solving the $14+ billion defecit will be that all programs, including those protecting the environment, will take major hits because of a failure to address the revenue side of the problem.