This article is adapted from the CalMatters election results explainer for classroom use.
Proposition 30 was rejected by voters and was one of the most confusing and contentious measures on this year’s ballot — and one of the clearest recent examples showing how politics makes strange bedfellows.
The rideshare company Lyft and a coalition of environmentalists, public health organizations and labor groups pumped millions into backing Proposition 30, which would have imposed a 1.75% personal income tax increase on California’s top earners — on income above $2 million per year — to fund a slew of climate initiatives to clean up the state’s dirty air.
California recently enacted swift and ambitious deadlines to phase in new sales of electric cars. The expected increase in electric vehicle ownership over the next two decades has brought into focus the growing need for public charging stations and subsidies to make zero-emission cars more affordable. But the state, which prides itself on setting aggressive climate policies, now finds itself facing an uphill battle when it comes to achieving those goals.
The measure would have raised as much as $5 billion annually, with most of that money going towards those electric vehicle incentives and half set aside for low-income communities. The remainder would have gone to wildfire prevention efforts.
California already dedicated $10 billion towards these incentives, but supporters said those investments alone wouldn’t be enough to meet the state’s goals. They argued the tax would generate a much-needed revenue stream to accelerate the transition and reduce the disproportionate burden of air pollution in disadvantaged communities.
“With Prop. 30, we had a chance to create a healthier, safer future for our state and our families,” said a statement from the Yes on 30 campaign. “The burden is now on the governor to work with legislative leaders to find other ways to fund the transition to a cleaner equitable transportation system and to prevent and control catastrophic wildfires.”
But opponents argued the measure would slam the wealthy with yet another tax hike and contended that it was a corporate carve-out for Lyft, which faces a 2030 deadline to log 90% of its miles in electric cars. The driving forces behind the opposition included billionaires, business groups and most notably Gov. Newsom, who turned on Democrats to join forces with the Republican Party.
“Today, California voters decisively rejected this poorly crafted and unnecessary tax hike,” said Amelia Matier, a spokesperson for the No on 30 campaign. “The fact is Proposition 30 was a solution to an issue that the state is already addressing.”
Newsom bombarded Californians with a torrent of television ads in recent weeks — perhaps one reason why the measure’s support had fallen well below the threshold that it needed to pass. The measure lost voter support between a September survey and a poll from early October.