California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget cuts include canceling billions of dollars in climate change spending, a blow to environmental advocates who look to the state as a stopgap for the Trump administration’s weakening of federal protections.
In January, Newsom proposed a $12 billion “climate budget” that, over the next five years, would offer incentives for companies to convert to electric vehicles, give low-interest loans to businesses to clean up their practices and spend billions on projects preparing for floods, droughts and wildfires.
But Thursday, Newsom proposed eliminating most of the foundation for those programs to balance a budget that will have an estimated $54.3 billion deficit. The economic downturn has been brought by a statewide stay-at-home order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The order has closed most businesses for two months, putting more than 4.5 million people out of work and sending state tax collections plummeting.
The proposed cuts come as the state is battling the Trump administration over water quality and auto emissions, among other environmental issues.
“At a time when the Trump administration is mounting an unprecedented assault on environmental and public health protection, it’s absolutely devastating and horrifying,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Newsom administration says the cuts represent “unprecedented times” that have forced the state to “make sacrifices that we didn’t think six months ago we would have to do.” The administration chose to protect programs to clean up the air in disadvantaged communities and to provide safe drinking water.
“All the leaders around the world from Germany to Denmark to Japan are all suffering similar economic fates,” said Jared Blumenfeld, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. “What California is doing is prioritizing and making sure, as the governor said, our values come first.”