I was sent to Sacramento to give rural California a seat at the table and to effectively do the business of the state. It was in that spirit I decided to support Assembly Bill 398, which reforms and extends the cap-and-trade program for a decade, while reducing taxes, fees and regulations by more than $16 billion dollars.
I don’t love this bill. But by working with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, I was able to make a bad deal better and in the process I helped protect farmers, small businesses and rural Californians. I gave them a seat at the table so their voices could be heard.
This bill would have passed without Republican support. But because several Republicans were willing to work with Democrats, we were able to suspend the fire tax and negotiate billions in reduced taxes, fees and regulations to help farmers and local businesses survive.
I can understand how some of my colleagues opposed cap and trade, but supporting it was the right decision based on how we ended up in this position.
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In 2006, coastal elites rammed AB 32 through the Legislature, which led to California’s cap-and-trade program and imposed onerous standards on the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Last year, the majority party passed Senate Bill 32, which reduced emissions by another 40 percent.
Sacramento Democrats and the California Air Resources Board are going to meet those targets one way or another. So it’s either cap-and-trade or whatever the coastal elites dream up next. Voting “no” wouldn’t have changed this.
It’s within these parameters that I was forced to throw myself in front of this runaway liberalism by supporting cap and trade.
The fringe left opposed it because it doesn’t go far enough to punish so-called polluters. But what they call polluters on the coast, we call jobs. These are farmers and mom-and-pop shops. Many see cap-and-trade as the lesser evil, and I agree.
Cap-and-trade, flawed as it is, is a market-based approach to environmental regulation. It allows businesses that work to stay below the caps to sell credits to businesses struggling to meet emission limits. It gives businesses certainty by which they can plan, and it incentivizes businesses to meet emissions goals.
The Central Valley has some of the poorest air quality in the state, which is at least somewhat due to emissions pollution. The people of my district should not have to sacrifice their jobs to breathe clean air and AB 398 is a way to get there. It prevents a gas-price increase of more than $1 per gallon, which was going to happen without AB 398’s passage.
I could have opposed this bill and watched gas prices spike, farms and businesses close and hardworking Californians lose their jobs. Instead, some of my colleagues in the Assembly and I embraced the opportunity to pull this measure to the right.
The sad reality for the Central Valley and rural California is that we are rarely a priority for a majority of this Legislature. But being open to engaging on the difficult issues, instead of sitting on the sidelines, I made sure we have a seat at the table.
Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, represents the 8th Senate District, which includes Amador, Calaveras, Inyo, Mariposa, Mono and Tuolumne counties and parts of Fresno, Madera, Sacramento, Stanislaus and Tulare counties.