That’s the question asked by reporter John Myers (of the California Report) regarding Governor Schwarzenegger’s decision to link funding of the state’s parks to new offshore oil drilling in his just-released budget proposal.

Myers tweeted: “Guv links $200 mil from the controversial T-Ridge oil drilling project 2 help pay for #caparks. Quite a political move: parks vs. drilling?”

Here’s the excerpt from the state budget summary released today:

“Fund State Parks from Tranquillon Ridge Oil Revenues — A reduction of $140 million in General Fund and replacement with revenue generated from the Tranquillon Ridge oil lease. It is estimated that the Tranquillon Ridge oil lease will generate $1.8 billion in advanced royalties over the next 14 years. This revenue will be used to fund state parks. The Governor’s Budget assumes that the State Lands Commission will approve the Tranquillon Ridge proposal. If not approved by the Commission, legislation will be necessary.”

The vast majority of environmental groups oppose the Tranquillon Ridge oil drilling proposal, but of course, no one wants to see our state’s incredible, envy-of-the-world state parks closed to the public. Is the governor trying to pit environmentalists against each other? Those who oppose lifting the 40-year moratorium on offshore oil drilling versus champions of our state parks?

Another major problem with the governor’s budget — it decimates public transit funding. According to the L.A. Times:

“One of the proposed budget’s biggest losers is public transit — and its riders. Through a complex gas tax swap, which would simultaneously eliminate the sales tax on gas and raise the per-gallon excise tax, roughly $1 billion would be siphoned off from bus and rail funds. The shift would gut Proposition 42, a voter-approved measure that determines how gas tax money is currently split. Mass transit, which now receives 20% of the taxes, would be cut out of the equation. Drivers would pay slightly less at the pump.”

Myers and Capitol Weekly’s Anthony York discussed these two anti-environmental proposals, as well as other components of the governor’s budget, in a recent and lively Podcast conversation:

Anthony York: “Another central contradiction to this governor, is that here is the ‘environmental governor’ stripping a billion dollars out of public transit funding… and I think there are public transit advocates that say, look, this doesn’t make any sense… here’s a guy who prides himself on, there was a bill passed, by Senator Darrell Steinberg, SB 375, that would call for more smart growth, and developing public transit projects in with new housing and business development, and here the governor’s decimating funding for public transit, how can you… call yourself the green governor, when really what you’re doing is building more roads which is creating an infrastructure for more cars, and also eliminating funding for public transit, and also oil drilling. I mean, that’s something we should talk about…”

John Myers: “On the issue of the environment, the governor is resurrecting in this budget the long-debated controversial plan for new offshore oil drilling in state waters off of Northern Santa Barbara county, a project known as Tranquillon Ridge, ‘T-Ridge’ in the lingo. And the governor is actually calling this $200 million to help the state budget because they’re saying, we get $100 million in the budget year that ends in July and another $100 million in the next year (York: if we start drilling yesterday)… Only $100 million is the up-front royalty, the rest of it is dependent on the price of oil and how fast we drill it out of the ocean floor. ..

In a very interesting political chess move, the governor has linked the T-Ridge oil drilling money to funding for state parks in this budget, and effectively saying a new offshore oil drilling proposal will help pay for the parks. Some people would say that’s brilliant politics, some would say it cynical politics, I’m not going to judge but it’s fascinating.”

I’m going to have to go with “cynical politics.” Remember, T-Ridge got really close to becoming a reality; it was passed by the Senate but not the Assembly.

And of course, the governor also proposed (under the false premise of job creation) exempting a large number of big constructions projects from the California Environmental Quality Act in his “State of the State” address (see our previous blog entry and a statement from CLCV CEO Warner Chabot).

There’s much, much more to hate in the governor’s budget proposal — and after all, the state is facing yet another multi-billion dollar shortfall, so painful cuts to education, social services, and more were expected. But is the governor looking at the full range of solutions to our budget woes? If you were the governor, what would you do?

Posted on January 8, 2010


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