Will Proposition 23 Hurt Jobs or Save Them?
California voters have entered early voting since more than one-third of all voters are vote by mail through permanent absentee balloting. Thus the choices are already being made on candidates and ballot measures in the Golden State.
Proposition 23 would suspend the California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) until unemployment is below 5.5% for four consecutive quarters. Advocates for AB32 say this will be a calamity subjecting California to worsening environmental impacts and cost California clean energy jobs.
Jobs are the third rail of politics this year so forming a judgment about the jobs impact of Proposition 23 is a big part of making a decision to vote YES or NO on the measure.
The Pacific Research Institute released Prospective Employment Effects of California Proposition 23 this week which tries to answer that question. The study says there is a historic correlation between energy use and jobs across the economy and that same phenomenon is true in California as well. One does not apparently cause the other but they move together. Thus the forecast estimates of energy use reduction resulting from AB32 implementation, the PRI reasons, will be a reasonable proxy for how employment levels can be expected to perform if the AB32 law is implementation as planned—and conversely if Proposition 23 suspends that implementation.
The analysis performed resulting in the conclusion that “suspension of AB 32 would yield increases in aggregate California employment, relative to the case with implementation of AB 32, of a bit less than 150,000 in 2011, rising to more than a half million in 2012, and about 1.3 million in 2020.”
This is not what state officials were interested in hearing so close to the election.
This conclusion is similar to the results of the independent California Legislative Analyst who, while using less assertive language for fear of irritating his bosses, concluded in his own study of the implications of suspending AB32 that “considering both the positive and negative economic impacts, we conclude that, on balance, economic activity in the state would likely be modestly higher if this proposition were enacted than otherwise.”
There is not much time for rebuttal to these studies but advocates for AB32 says passage of Prop 23 will seriously harm the creation of cleantech jobs. We’ll see if the voters believe that or whether they see AB32 as an “energy tax” as the Pacific Research Institute described it in plain English.