The California Clean Energy Jobs Act was an important political turning point for the state. Some voters saw it as a chance to reclaim lost revenue and improve prospect across the region. Others saw it as an opportunity to stand up to the injustice of tax breaks for out-of-state operations. Most importantly, it was a long-overdue opportunity for voters to have their say on the issue. Passionate campaigning leads to divisive results over some emotive issues. What was the main aim of Proposition 39, why were voters encouraged to vote Yes, and what did it all mean for the area?
What was the main objective of Proposition 39?
Proposition 39 was a vital part of the ballot on the Californian vote in November 2012. A Yes Vote would see a significant change to the tax laws in the context of the California Clean Energy Jobs Act. The proposition was to close the tax loophole that allowed companies with out-of-state headquarters to choose how much tax they paid.
Understandably, most wanted to pay the smallest possible amount they could, which meant less revenue for the state. Furthermore, they had no obligation to hire Californian workers in the process. It is was the loophole that was a lose-lose situation for the Californian job market. A No Vote would keep things exactly as they were.
Where did this Tax Loophole come from?
The issue of the tax loophole was one that caught many locals off guard. It was one of those clauses that, like many so-called “midnight deals,” slipped into a bill in the last minute negotiation. This problem here is that not only did it pass unseen; it highlighted one of the main issues with lawmaking in the state. Suddenly there was a ruling that allowed these out-of-state companies to benefit greatly at the expense of workers, and local voters had nothing to do with it.
That is one of the reasons why this voter-led ballot at the November 2012 election was so appealing. It finally put the issue back into the control of real voters. They could finally have their say on a matter blocked and protected by those higher up for three years. It was an opportunity that many voters appreciated, as they saw a chance to right two wrongs.
The leading issues for voters were the loss of business and the loss of revenue.
There are two factors here that upset voters due to the inequality and injustice showed. The first was the idea that these companies could benefit, despite working out-of-state. There was a clear sense of the difference in the job market.
Previous attempts to close the loophole came from business leaders and politicians that could appreciate the injustice for hard-working Californian. They saw job opportunities lost as companies relocated their headquarters out of state. The public appeals are surrounding Proposition 39 shed light on the issue for the average American. Now families and workers could better understand the problems and impact of their own lives.
The second is the idea of the lost $1 billion per year. To add insult to injury, there was the fact that those tax breaks mostly took $1 billion in revenue away from the state. Workers and families could not understand why politicians and lawmakers had allowed this to happen. This was money that could have benefited vulnerable people across the country and improved resources and job opportunities. This tantalizing figure of $1 billion annually over five years became quite the catalyst in the campaigns and discussions.
This was a lot of money that could benefit citizens right across the state for a long time to come.
The issue of the revenue came to the forefront for some reasons. The most simple point here was that sense that the state could finally reclaim what they lost, for the benefit of its people. Then details emerged about how the state would use the money, which led to plenty of speculation and high hopes for many projects. The basic idea here was that the money would split 50/50, for that five-year period, on essential services. This meant half of education, health and social care and the other half to green initiatives.
50% for Schools and Vital Services
California has legislation in place to ensure that half of any new revenue goes to education and other essential services for these first five years. Therefore, there were big plans to improve education services across the state. This meant vital money for public schools and community colleges.
These are the institutions that struggle to meet the standard or face cuts due to their location. The aim here was to help to improve these standards in struggling areas and to add some equality to the system. For example, charter schools do not have access to the guaranteed facility, but this measure had the potential to change all of that.
Then there were the benefits of Proposition 39 for other Californian services. Education was high on the agenda for many teachers and parents affected by this ballot. However, many women and nurses connected with this issue over social and health care problems. Women that lived in more deprived areas, often women of color, saw the potential for improvements with this new revenue money. The actual health and social care projects in the right areas would potentially make a difference to their prosperity beyond employment issues. Still, opponents warned voters of politicizing the issue too much, perhaps unable to see past the financial figures.
50% for Green Energy Schemes Across California
Then there was the benefit of energy efficiency projects in these institutions and other public buildings. The focus of many campaigns on this matter was this 50/50 split between industry and public service. However, there was a blurring of the lines when it came to one of the more unusual measures under discussion. Part of the plan with this $1 billion was to work on energy efficiency within public buildings.
This meant greener government buildings and other major landmarks, where lighting, heating power use could improve. However, there were also plans to expand this to public schools. This meant that not only could local children see improved education standards in the classroom, but those classrooms would also have better equipment, insulation, windows and more. The overall impact on carbon emissions in the city had the potential to be quite significant. It was also a win-win situation for all those parent voters with a green conscious.
In addition to this, there were also benefits for green energy more generally. The long-term goal with this proposition was to readdress the balance with inequality in employment in California. This worked on a general level, replacing posts taken away by those out-of-state companies. But, there was also a focus on green tech and energy production.
There was the acknowledgment that this was the state’s strength. An increase in opportunities in these areas would boost the local labor force and employment figures. It would also help to produce the tech needed to work on those energy efficiency schemes for greener buildings and cities.
The funding for green programs leads to the other main focus with this YES vote on Prop 39.
While many families and voters focus on the revenue and subsequent personal benefits, others saw the potential for improvements in California employment. First of all, there is a simple fact that companies could no longer base themselves out-of-state and refuse to hire a Californian worker. This would lead to a better job market for Californian workers.
More specifically, one of the main advantages there was growth in the green energy sector. There were high hopes to even the playing field for local workers by increasing posts in areas of green energy and tech. This would allow for further growth in an expanding market. On top of this, there were plans to bring in other companies and major industries into the state with these new laws. This included major tech firms working on healthcare equipment.
Many influential figures come out in support of this proposition to help secure that crucial Yes Vote.
There are times when it takes a small, grassroots movement to fan the flames of a political issue. It is a slow burn as word spreads. Here the situation was a little different. The leader of Proposition 39 was a leading businessman, Tom Steyer, and he had clear support from major political figures. Soon, every mayor of the major Californian cities seemed to queue up to make their statement. They were ready to denounce these out-of-state companies, cry for equality and label the Yes Vote a no-brainer. This was a valuable addition to the battle cry, but not enough on its own.
Some would also argue that the most influential of all the supporters were not the politicians and big businessmen, but the unions and other public groups.
The problem with big speeches from politicians and people in business was the lack of trust. The mayors of the large Californian cities and other leading representatives should have been leading authorities with the people’s interests in mind. The trouble is that this loophole slipped into law via seemingly sneaky methods, and lobbyists already blocked bipartisan approaches. As for the businessmen, there is often a disconnect to the average worker, especially in an issue over tax and earnings.
The biggest influences in this campaign came from worker’s unions, labor groups, newspapers, and other primary groups out to take a stand. Labor groups and unions are an obvious link to the ordinary worker suffering in these sorts of cases. They can also talk about potential benefits and market growth in a more relatable manner. The additional support from women’s groups and nurses added further fuel to the fire. They highlighted the potential benefits of health and social care services, and the impact this would have on vulnerable women in the state.
The Result Swung in Favor of Proposition 39
The slow build of momentum and public support seemed to play its part in the result. There was the sense in the months leading up to the final vote that the tide was turning against this loophole. In the end, the vote allowed for the legislature that passed a proposal in June the following year. This set the ball in motion for the increased fund to vital projects using revenue gained through the closure of the tax loophole.
It would take some time to argue over the exact recipients. There was a clear incentive to work on clean energy projects for both K-12 schools and community colleges. One interesting detail here is the split of the vote. Despite the surge in popularity, it was only 60% for and 40% against.
It is hard to overlook the importance of this vote on all Californians, not just the workers.
The wide range of supporters on this issue, and the split of the ballot highlight the significance this ballot had on all those taking part. This was a chance for everyone to have their say by a public vote. This meant everyone from the workers denied job opportunities to the business leaders that might lose out.
It was a chance for teachers, green energy experts and parents to regain some revenue lost to tax breaks. The sense of unity and diversity of supporters during campaigning means that the final result is a little surprising. All talk of a surge to a significant victory in the run-up to polls appears to have been overblown. Still, there was the sense that the ordinary voter finally took control.
In the end, the Yes Vote on Proposition 39 was a success story that was a long time in the making. Many felt that the hole should have closed years beforehand, but lobbyists saw to that. Others agree that it should never have been there in the first place. Either way, the positive vote finally provided that sense of justice and equality that supporters were after. Big businesses had to pay a fairer share, and more money was available to improve prospects for workers in the state. Green energy solutions and energy efficiency schemes grew, improving the economic and social prospects of families across the country.