Could Proposition 23, the Nov. 2 initiative to suspend the state's landmark greenhouse gas emissions reduction law, improve the health of Californians?
That's what the author of the hot-button measure argued today at a lunchtime forum sponsored by the Sacramento Press Club.
Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, said delaying Assembly Bill 32 regulations until the state unemployment rate drops would protect and create jobs that give residents insurance and other resources to live better.
"If we want people to live longer, be healthy, I guarantee get them a job," he said. "The bottom line is if we're going to create an atmosphere where people have healthy lifestyles, we have to put them back to work."
Logue's comments came in response to No on Proposition 23 co-chair Thomas Steyer's assertion that suspending AB32 would hurt air qualify and pollution control in the state. Steyer, a wealthy manager of a hedge fund in San Francisco, noted that the American Lung Association is a member of the opposition campaign.
The two sparred on a variety of topics during the hourlong forum and Q-and-A, including the motives of donors contributing large sums of cash on both sides of the fight.
Logue defended heavy spending by the oil industry to boost the campaign, saying the companies had employed hundreds of thousands of Californians directly and indirectly.
"Why do we want to demonize people who get involved in the process, who probably pay more taxes than everyone on the No on 23 campaign combined," he said.
Logue seemed baffled when asked about a contribution from a company owned by David and Charles Koch, the heads of Koch Industries whose large contributions to conservative causes and fighting climate change legislation were recently profiled in the New Yorker.
"What brothers?" he asked, before responding that contributors are generally not directly involved in the campaign. He accused the opposition of taking about donors to distract from the issue of job creation.
Steyer in turn was asked about whether keeping AB32 in place would benefit investments associated with the multi-billion dollar hedge fund he heads.
"I know we own some energy company stocks. ... I am not doing this professionally, I doing this as a citizen of California," he said. "It would seem to me if it's bad for oil companies for Prop. 23 to be defeated, then I would be acting against my own interest. We make investments through a variety of industries."
Steyer said that while he sees fossil fuels being a part of the California economy and energy system for the foreseeable future, investments in the clean energy sector will benefit California's economy by preparing the state to compete as the industry grows.
"I know this is tough times.... We really can't afford to look backwards," he said. "We have to go into the future."
Logue dismissed attacks that the measure would negatively impact efforts to curb global warming, saying the goal should be protecting jobs and promoting economic recovery now.
He side-stepped a question about whether he personally believes global warming exists and is caused, at least in part, by human actions, calling that the "trillion dollar question."
"I'm not a scientist, I do not know. But what I do know is that we are in a worldwide recession," he said, after noting he has a book where 31,000 scientists say climate change is not caused by humans.
Steyer responded: "This whole question about whether there's global warming, I don't think that's even a question."