Tom Steyer-Backed CA Eco Plan Doesn’t Go As Expected

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Three years ago, California voters approved a measure to close a “corporate tax loophole,” effectively raising taxes on multi-state corporations operating in California, so that the state could fund a Clean Energy Jobs Program. Ostensibly, the program would help California schools reconfigure their energy systems to conform to higher-efficiency standards, receiving upgrades to their lighting, heating and cooling systems to make them greener. But the CA Eco Plan did not go as expected.

According to an Associated Press investigation, instead of creating 11,000 new jobs as promised, the measure, which cost California taxpayers nearly $300 million, has created a meager 1,700 jobs – and the legislative board in charge of the project has never met.

Nearly three years after California voters passed a ballot measure to raise taxes on corporations and generate clean-energy jobs by funding energy-efficiency projects in schools, barely one-tenth of the promised jobs have been created, and the state has no comprehensive list to show how much work has been done or how much energy has been saved.

Money is trickling in at a slower-than-anticipated rate, and more than half of the $297 million given to schools so far has gone to consultants and energy auditors. The board created to oversee the project and submit annual progress reports to the Legislature has never met, according to a review by The Associated Press.

The problem is twofold: one, corporations responded to the tax hike in a predictable way, by moving operations out of California (thus, severely limiting the tax revenue the legislature had hoped to receive – hundreds of millions below expectations), and two, the program has no oversight or accountability. While legislative accountability panels are often, as one professor in the article says, “rubber stamps,” this board has failed to organize itself even to meet to rubber stamp funding requests.

According to the AP, there hasn’t been a single infrastructure project completed, anywhere in the state. The program gave $12.6 million to Los Angeles Unified School District in its single largest expenditure to date, but no construction has been done on any of the district’s 1,000 schools. Only two schools were even scheduled to receive energy saving upgrades. Of the scheduled repairs, most are lighting retrofits, which save the schools some money in energy costs, but are not labor intensive, meaning fewer workers are needed to complete the repairs.

In case you thought California simply came up with this boondoggle on their own, much of the Clean Energy Jobs Program was the brainchild of green activist and hedge fund magnate Tom Steyer, who fronted the $30 million for the imitative’s campaign. Steyer, who is worth $1.2 billion, at least partly on investments in overseas coal and coal mining projects, has pledged a large percentage of his personal fortune to eliminating reliance on fossil fuels, and especially coal. Steyer wants California schools to reduce or eliminate their reliance on coal-powered electricity, costing taxpayers millions in the process, while supporting coal mining projects in Asia and Australia through his hedge fund, Farallon Capital Management.

Lawmakers are now looking to institute an oversight plan for the green jobs measure, but it may be too little too late. Other states looking to adopt similar measures, however, at the behest of millionaire green activists, should take a step back and consider California’s lack of success.