But the move has baffled many progressives in the state, with Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom joining the California Republican Party in opposing the measure because of Lyft’s involvement. He called it a “special interest divestiture” and “a cynical scheme devised by a corporation to funnel state income taxes into its corporation.” The governor and his office argue that higher taxes are not needed to fund electric vehicles. Newsom told voters that this year’s state budget includes $10 million for electrification, including car subsidies and charging stations. Opponents also fear the measure would set a bad precedent by allowing companies to set policy through a vote rather than a legislature. Others believe the tax hike will drive wealthy residents to flee California for tax havens like Florida and Texas. (Proponents of Proposition 30 say it never happened.) With 42 percent of the vote counted as of this writing and 59 percent of California opposing it, the Associated Press predicts a failure of Proposition 30.
Ultimately, the state’s residents and businesses will need to figure out how to pay for electric vehicles. In 2021, the California Air Resources Board mandated that 90 percent of Uber and Lyft drivers must use electric vehicles by 2030. The committee then ruled in August, all The state’s gasoline-powered vehicles need to be phased out by 2035, noting that California’s transportation sector accounts for more than half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Advocates say Proposition 30, which aims to lower the cost of switching to electric vehicles, will help drivers meet California’s goals, especially for low- and moderate-income residents.
With or without Proposition 30, this year is a pivotal year for climate action. Just three months ago, Congress passed the largest climate bill to date, the Reducing Inflation Act. As my colleague Arianna Coghill wrote at the time, the law included nearly $370 billion in climate spending that would help fund jobs like renewable energy and electric vehicles. By 2030, the IRA could reduce the country’s carbon emissions by about 30 to 40 percent from 2005 levels, according to independent analysis by two nonpartisan research firms. President Joe Biden has pledged to reduce the country’s emissions by about 50% over the same period.
But overall, the conversation this election cycle has been surprisingly absent from the environment. The economy, the future of democracy and education were the top three issues most frequently cited by voters as “very important” in an October survey by the Pew Research Center. While “energy policy” came in fifth, climate change was ranked 14th on Pew’s list, behind “the size and scope of the federal government.” Likewise, a recent AP VoteCast poll found that roughly half of voters think jobs and the economy are the most important issues facing the country today, while only 9% think climate change. There are also few climate vote measures, at least at the state level. “It’s unusual to have no more environmental voting initiatives,” Nick Abraham, national communications director for the Alliance to Protect Voters, told Grist in October.
Of course, voting measures offer only one avenue for change. As my former colleague at Vox, Rebecca Leber, said, states can play an important role in passing clean energy bills. With Democrats now appearing to take control of state legislatures and governors’ offices in Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota, four other states could “have the upper hand in pushing for new climate goals,” she wrote. The Republican-dominated Congress is nationwide, she wrote.
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