Jane Fonda blasts wealthy Prop. 30 foes
Actress and activist Jane Fonda has a message for wealthy Californians who oppose Proposition 30, a November ballot measure that would hike taxes on millionaires to subsidize electric vehicles and fund wildfire response and prevention:
“People who would choose to get rich and stay rich, as opposed to helping create a livable future, have to really seriously examine their priorities.”
Fonda, who acknowledged that her own taxes would go up if voters approve Prop. 30, shared her stance on the controversial ballot measure for the first time in an exclusive interview Monday.
Fonda spoke with me on Zoom from Los Angeles in between trips to Michigan, New Mexico and Texas to stump for candidates endorsed by the Jane Fonda Climate PAC, an organization she founded this year to help elect leaders who “care about people and the planet and the environment and the future more than corporations.”
The PAC has so far directly contributed $60,800 to 29 California candidates at the federal, state, county and city level, said Ariel Hayes, the PAC’s executive director and former national political director for the Sierra Club. Hayes said the PAC is still determining how much more it plans to invest before the Nov. 8 election.
- Those figures don’t include money contributed to “independent expenditure” committees — which don’t coordinate with the campaigns they’re trying to help — or money raised through online or in-person joint fundraising drives, Hayes said.
The PAC is just the latest climate endeavor for Fonda, 84, a two-time Academy Award-winning actress with a decades-long history of activism. Although Fonda announced in September that she had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, “this f—–g cancer is not going to keep me from doing all that I can,” she told me, adding that the climate crisis makes her “so scared I can’t sleep.”
After the November election, the PAC plans to zero in on California and the Gulf states, where the oil industry holds significant sway, Fonda said.
- Fonda: “Nationally, people think that California is way ahead of the rest of the country. And in many ways it is true, it’s done some great things. But … the window of opportunity is closing fast. And while the Legislature here has passed some really exceptional bills this season, it also killed a bill that would have moved California to achieve a 55% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. It … killed a bill which would have divested California pension funds from fossil fuel companies.”
Other key takeaways from my interview with Fonda:
- On disagreeing with Gov. Gavin Newsom: By supporting Prop. 30, Fonda is siding with the California Democratic Party — but breaking with Newsom, who has joined the California Republican Party in urging voters to reject the measure. (Newsom has warned the measure could destabilize California’s budget, which disproportionately relies on taxes from high earners. Amid concerns of an impending recession, California’s tax revenues in September came in $2.8 billion below projections, putting the state’s coffers about $7 billion below projections from the most recent economic forecast, according to a Monday report from the state Department of Finance.)
- In several high-profile Dem-on-Dem races, Fonda’s PAC and Newsom have endorsed opposing candidates: For a hotly contested Sacramento-area seat in the state Senate, the PAC is backing progressive Dave Jones while Newsom is behind the more moderate Angelique Ashby. And for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Newsom is supporting former state Sen. Bob Hertzberg — whom Fonda said is “too much in bed with the oil companies” — while the PAC is backing his opponent, Lindsey Horvath. “A lot of us have been battling the governor for quite a long time, and he has finally done really, really, really well in the climate space,” Fonda said. “But we don’t always see eye to eye.”
- On state lawmakers approving Newsom’s last-minute push to extend the lifespan of Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear power plant: “Am I happy about the need to rely on nuclear energy right now? No,” Fonda said. But as we “phase gradually out of fossil fuels, as we build up our sustainable green energy sector … we need a bridge.”
- On the oil industry pursuing a referendum to overturn a recently signed law banning new oil and gas wells close to sensitive areas: “Our elected officials voted for that. How dare the oil companies try to override the will of the California voters? How dare they? They’re already killing us because of what they’re doing to our planet and lying to us about what they’re doing. I mean, it’s a direct attack on democracy.”
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1 COVID emergency to come to an end
California plans to end its COVID-19 state of emergency on Feb. 28, 2023, nearly three years after Newsom first declared one to help curb the spread of the virus, senior administration officials announced Monday. Here’s a closer look at some of the public health and political ramifications of the news, via CalMatters’ Kristen Hwang and Ana B. Ibarra:
- Public health: Newsom’s office said in a statement that the four-month phaseout will give the “health care system needed flexibility to handle any potential surge that may occur after the holidays in January and February.” The governor’s office also pointed to progress under the SMARTER Plan, California’s long-term blueprint for responding to the virus. But some health officials questioned the logic of beginning to roll back the state of emergency now. “It forces California hospitals to scale back on our capacity to care for people at a time of high uncertainty about the future,” said California Hospital Association President Carmela Coyle, pointing out facilities are bracing for a possible “twindemic” of COVID and flu.
- Politics: The governor’s announcement came as voters are receiving and casting mail-in ballots for California’s Nov. 8 election. Newsom has for months faced pressure from Republican lawmakers and other critics to end the state of emergency, which they said was an excuse for the governor to wield unprecedented executive powers. Many GOP legislators cheered the news Monday, even as they questioned the timing: “We finally got Newsom to end the State of Emergency,” tweeted Republican Assemblymember Kevin Kiley of Rocklin, who sued Newsom over one of his pandemic executive orders. “Oddly, he’s scheduled its termination for February.”
- Moving forward: The governor’s office said it plans to ask legislators to codify several emergency order provisions in state law, including allowing nurses to administer COVID treatments and lab assistants to process COVID tests.
2 Reports raise concern over greenhouse gas emissions
Monday greeted Californians with a mixed bag of climate news:
- Increasingly extreme wildfires could threaten California’s ability to reach its ambitious climate goals. That’s according to a new study led by University of California researchers and published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Pollution, which found that wildfires in 2020 — California’s worst wildfire year on record — resulted in more than double the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions slashed by the state from 2003 to 2019. In other words, “Wildfire emissions in 2020 essentially negate 18 years of reduction in greenhouse gas emission,” said Dr. Michael Jerrett, a UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of environmental health sciences and a lead author of the research, in a statement. David Clegern, a spokesperson for the California Air Resources Board, told the San Francisco Chronicle that “wildfire emissions and fossil fuel emissions are not the same” because forest fires can have regenerative properties. But the study’s authors noted that forest regrowth wouldn’t happen quickly enough to avert “highly dangerous levels of increased pollutions, temperatures and climate change.”
- Greenhouse gas emissions also skyrocketed at California’s two largest ports in 2021, rising 39% at the Port of Los Angeles and 35% at the Port of Long Beach, the Los Angeles Times reports. Although emissions are still far below levels in the mid-2000s, the increase has infuriated environmental justice advocates and residents of nearby communities. It’s also raised concerns about the long-term environmental effects of global supply chain issues exacerbated by the pandemic, which led to a massive backlog of cargo ships at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports and may have helped cause a 2021 oil spill off Huntington Beach.
- Homeowners in areas at high risk of wildfires could see some relief after rules proposed by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara went into effect. But, as CalMatters’ Grace Gedye has reported, the regulations won’t be a silver bullet for Californians: They would require insurers to take homeowners’ efforts to reduce wildfire risk into account when setting premiums, but would still allow policy non-renewals.
3 How politics influence the ‘California Exodus’
Ah, the California Exodus: The myth that keeps on giving. A Monday report from the Public Policy Institute of California was the latest to take a crack at the much-discussed and much-debated phenomenon through the lens of political ideology. A few particularly interesting findings:
- Asked if California’s high housing costs have led them to seriously consider moving out of state, 26% of very liberal respondents said yes, compared to 39% of those who self-identified as middle-of-the-road, 45% who described themselves as very conservative and 56% of those who disapprove of Newsom’s performance of governor. And 51% of Californians who said they pay much more than they should in taxes answered in the affirmative, compared to 23% who don’t think they pay too much.
- But, although 1 in 3 Californians has thought about leaving the state, only about 1 in 10 actually did so from 2016-20, according to the report.
- The takeaway: “A large share of Californians feel like they want to live somewhere else, and dissatisfaction with the state’s politics is at least part of the reason why. This dynamic probably pushes a few who might otherwise stay to leave the state. The result may be a politically skewed departure that nudges the state’s politics ever so slightly to the left.”
And personal finances may matter just as much, if not more, than political ideology. As income inequality gaps grow, the Public Policy Institute of California has found that people leaving the state are less wealthy than those moving in — including from Republican-led states such as Texas. And although new U.S. Census data showing a drop in median household income in metropolitan areas such as San Francisco suggests that wealthy Californians are leaving, many may simply be moving to cheaper regions within the Golden State. Indeed, the San Francisco Chronicle found that a growing share of city employees live in other Bay Area counties.
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