by Kevin Singer, Communications Coordinator, Californians for Responsible Economic Development
With one week left until the California Modernization and Economic Development Act - a proposed ballot initiative that would enact a tax on oil and gas extracted from California - is granted official summary and title by the Attorney General's Office, the proponents of the measure are announcing an Earth Day rally and press conference. On Monday, April 22nd at 12PM students and allies will gather on the historic steps of Sproul Plaza in Berkeley to show their support for the bill, which would infuse California's higher education system with $900 million for the purposes of reducing tuition and hiring more teachers. The rally will be followed by a press conference, during which the lead proponent, Jack Tibbetts, will give a statement and answer questions.
The California Modernization and Economic Development Act (CMED) places a 9.5% tax on the oil and gas that's extracted from California, and would bring in over $2 billion of new revenue for the state. $1.2 billion would be allocated in four equal parts towards K-12, California Community Colleges, California State University and the University of California. Another $400 million would be used to provide businesses with subsidies for switching to cleaner forms of energy, and $300 million would be allocated for city and park infrastructure. "We want to demonstrate that students are willing to fight and vote for a bill in 2014 that consists of a complete package of investments for their future," said Sera Tajima, Outreach Director for the campaign. "The fact of the matter is 2014 is an off-year election, and if Democrats are looking for a ballot initiative that will encourage student turn out, CMED is the obvious candidate," Tajima added.
The announcement comes on the heels of the California Democratic Convention, where environmental activist and philanthropist Thomas Steyer spent a great deal of time talking about the need for an extraction tax. Though he did not specify a proposal he planned on backing, he did not rule out a ballot initiative if the California Senate and Assembly do not act. The bill has already attracted the attention and support from a wide variety of interest groups and individuals, and touts a growing list of endorsements on their website (www.cmedact.org/endorsements). In February, former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich endorsed CMED, calling the ballot initiative a "no-brainer." Since then, the group has received enthusiastic support from several environmental advocacy groups, including the Community Food and Justice Coalition, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Sustainable Marin and San Rafael, and Mark Reynolds of Citizen's Climate Lobby.
In a recent turn of events, Dr. Daniel Kammen, Nobel Prize recipient and co-author of Prop 87 (a similar measure on the 2006 ballot), wholeheartedly endorsed the proposal. "Placing a small surcharge on in-state production benefits the state dramatically, spurring innovation on the producer side to reduce costs, and bringing in funds that are critically needed to green the economy, re-invest in education, and meet basic needs. California is at the forefront of the clean energy revolution, and has profited from this process. The California Modernization and Economic Development Act is absolutely needed."