San Francisco Chronicle, Ballot measure would tax California’s wealthiest residents to fund efforts curbing wildfires and smoke

How much fire season fouls up the air hasn’t been lost on anyone living in California recently: the smoke, the orange sky, the smell of burning wood.

A ballot initiative that appears almost certain to go before voters in November takes aim at wildfire pollution, and more.

Dubbed the Clean Cars and Clean Air Act, the measure would tax California’s wealthiest residents — those making more than $2 million a year — and channel the proceeds to helping the state curb wildfires, and smoke. The initiative also targets automobile exhaust by directing new tax revenue toward boosting the number of electric cars and trucks on the road.

Already California is investing heavily in fire management and zero-emissions vehicles. These investments not only improve air quality but reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A highly regarded United Nations climate report released Monday concludes that greenhouse gas emissions must drop 43% by 2030 to limit the planet’s temperature rise to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, the point at which scientists say the fallout of global warming may become unbearable.

Still, proponents of the measure say California needs to spend more money on clean air, especially as the temperatures continue to climb, which only exacerbates the amount of wildfire smoke and smog.

“We have a long way to go, and climate change is making it harder,” said Will Barrett, a national senior director with the American Lung Association, which recently joined a coalition of influential health, environment and labor groups in backing the initiative. “We think this ballot measure can build off of what the governor and the Legislature are trying to do.”

The state’s current efforts may also be the reason some won’t support the proposal to spend more money.

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