States across the country have budget surpluses, including federal coronavirus stimulus payments, and many governors are using the money for projects to fight so-called climate change.
The excess cash is also from tax collection and post-lockdown consumer spending, and governors of both red and blue states are directing funds to improve protection from extreme weather, which Democrats and the press blame on human activity and fossil fuels.
The Associated Press reported on the development:
Democratic governors such as California’s Gavin Newsom and Washington’s Jay Inslee have been clear about their plans to boost spending on climate-related projects, including expanding access to electric vehicles and creating more storage for clean energies such as solar. Newsom deemed climate change one of five “existential threats” facing the nation’s most populous state when he rolled out his proposed state budget this past week.
In Republican-led states, governors want to protect communities from natural disasters and drought, even as many of them won’t link such spending to global warming. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey this past week pitched $1 billion for water infrastructure as drought grips the Western U.S., shriveling water supplies for cities and farms. Idaho Gov. Brad Little, who has acknowledged climate change’s role in worsening wildfires, proposed $150 million for five years’ worth of fire-fighting costs, plus more for new fire personnel. In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster called on lawmakers to spend $300 million in federal money for, among other things, protecting the state’s coastline against flooding, erosion and storm damage.
Governors’ proposals are just the first step in budget negotiations, and they’ll have to work with state lawmakers on the final details. Many governors will issue their plans in the coming weeks, with some already telegraphing their priorities. New York’s Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, used her state of the state address to call for $500 million in spending on offshore wind projects.
“I can think of no more meritorious use of taxpayer funds than to protect these pristine properties for future generations of South Carolinians,” McMaster said as he presented the South Carolina state budget, which includes some $17 million to respond to weather-related damage.
“The climate crisis is not an abstraction. It is something that I and every governor in the United States, almost on a weekly basis, have to deal with,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said last week.
“From extreme floods to megafires to seemingly never-ending ozone alerts, our state’s long-term health is on the line. … We have to do everything in our power to make sure this is not the new normal,” Democrat Colorado Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg said in the AP report.
Newsom wants $22 billion for various projects to take place over the next five years, with the most going to electrifying school buses and expanding vehicle charging stations in low-income communities. Newsom also wants another $2 billion for “clean energy” development and storage.
Newsom also wants to advance the “clean energy” political agenda by offering so-called “green” technologies tax credits.
Democrat New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has asked the state legislature to fund the creation of a “climate change bureau,” with a 15-member staff and an initial $2.5 million.
But these budgets don’t reflect the importance fossil fuels continue to play in particularly western states’ economies, including in New Mexico “where the output of oil and natural gas has surged to an all-time high under Lujan Grisham’s administration,” AP reported. “At least one-fourth of the state’s general fund budget can be traced to income from the oil and natural gas industries underwriting public education, health care and other services.”
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter