(Updates with additional $10 million in Lyft spending and company comment)
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California’s governor is asking voters to reject a tax on the rich, calling the ballot initiative a corporate handout in a commercial that began airing Tuesday. Lyft Inc., the corporation targeted in the ad, immediately put another $10 million into countering Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ad.
The proposal (Proposition 30) on the Nov. 8 ballot seeks to impose a 1.75% tax on those making over $2 million each year. The money’s intended to raise up to $5 billion annually over 20 years to help Californians buy new zero-emission vehicles, build charging stations for those vehicles, and hire firefighters to smother wildfires.
“Prop 30 is a Trojan horse that puts corporate welfare over the fiscal welfare of our entire state,” Newsom (D) says in the commercial.
In addition to Newsom, teachers’ unions and the Chamber of Commerce oppose the ballot question while environmental groups back it as a step toward meeting the state’s ambitions to avert the worst effects of climate change.
Lyft on Tuesday augmented its spending in favor of the ballot measure, bringing its total to $25 million, according to campaign disclosure filings. California is requiring the company and other ridesharing services like Uber Inc. to use zero-emission vehicles for 90% of their customer miles driven by 2030.
In a statement, Lyft spokeswoman Jodi Seth said that none of the money generated through Proposition 30 would be set aside for the rideshare industry. “Governor Newsom stands with his billionaire donors looking to protect their bank accounts,” Seth said in an email.
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The governor’s position aligns him with those who are concerned that money raised for electric vehicles will displace state budget funding for education. A constitutional limit on state appropriations could require the state to reduce money to other programs to “make room” for the new spending, according to a Legislative Analyst’s Office report.
Proposition 30’s backers say those fears are misplaced because electric vehicle infrastructure would qualify as a`capital outlay project and the wildfire money as emergency funding.
Denny Zane, founder of Move LA, a transit-focused group and one of the original organizers behind the campaign, took issue with the ad’s claim that the ballot initiative “was devised by a single corporation.”
“Governor, somebody misled you,” countered Zane. “Activists started this.”
Lyft’s support came as proponents began the costly effort of collecting signatures to qualify the measure, Zane said.
The state’s air board has ordered a phasing out of gasoline-powered vehicle sales by 2035. If the ballot issue succeeds, it would mean money to fund that transition away from internal combustion engines in heavy-duty vehicles, Zane said.
New clean air and climate policies are popular in the state. About 63% of likely voters polled said they were in favor of Proposition 30 in a mid-July Public Policy Institute of California survey.
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