UPDATED 5:02 p.m. with comment from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Californians heading to the polls in November will vote whether to derail the state's landmark greenhouse gas emission law.
Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced this afternoon that the measure to delay Assembly Bill 32, the 2006 law mandating the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, has qualified for the ballot. Proponents, who needed to submit at least 435,000 valid voter signatures to make the cut, reached the threshold for qualifying through the random sample process.
The measure, called the California Jobs Initiative, calls for delaying implementation of the regulations until the state unemployment rate -- which currently hovers at about 12 percent -- drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters.
The initiative's backers deride AB 32 as a "job killer" and say that complying with the law's mandates will hurt businesses on the brink of recovery. They cite various studies, some of which have been dismissed or criticized by other academics, finding that the regulations would cost the state jobs. The Legislative Analyst's Office concluded in a report this spring that AB 32 could result in job losses in the short term but that it was unclear what the long-term impact would be.
"AB 32 will impose billions of dollars in higher utility rates and fuel prices on California families when they can least afford it," said campaign co-chair Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. "The California Jobs Initiative will let voters - not politicians and unelected bureaucrats - decide whether or not now is the right time for this massive new energy tax."
Opponents slam the measure as an effort on behalf of corporations and energy companies seeking to avoid regulation and roll back the state's environmental protection policies, including oil companies that contributed millions of dollars to the campaign to qualify for the ballot. They argue the initiative would hamper growth of the green jobs sector and increase dependence on foreign oil.
"Jobs in California generated by clean-tech ventures are growing and, since these products have global potential use, the prospect for important growth in clean-tech jobs is promising," said former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, co-chair of the opposition campaign. "As a former Secretary of State, I see our dependence on foreign oil as one of the greatest threats to national security, and the proposition would undermine efforts to break that dependence."
The opposition campaign will have help from one of the AB 32's biggest backers: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the law in 2006. The Republican can be counted on to lend his fundraising prowess to fighting to keep the measure intact.
"This initiative sponsored by greedy Texas oil companies would cripple California's fastest growing economic sector, reverse our renewable energy policy and decimate our environmental progress for the benefit of these oil companies' profit margins," Schwarzenegger said Tuesday in a statement. "I will not allow this to happen on my watch."