Newsom allocates $22.5 billion to climate crisis in California budget proposal

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomVirginia's Youngkin gets the DeSantis treatment from media Equilibrium/Sustainability — Solar-powered cars on the EV horizon Newsom vows crackdown: Rail car looting like 'third world country' MORE (D) has allocated $22.5 billion to combatting the climate crisis, in his $286.4 billion budget proposal released to the state on Monday.

Newsom’s proposal, called the California Blueprint, contains a one-time expenditure of $22.5 billion over the next five years — including $6.1 billion earmarked for electric vehicle initiatives — to collectively advance the state’s climate and opportunity agenda and deliver community resilience.

The allocation marks a significant jump from the previous year’s budget, which included $15 billion in climate resilience investments.

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“Climate change is driving devastating wildfire seasons, historic droughts — the challenges seem endless,” Newsom wrote in a letter to California state legislators. “This is not only a spending plan for the year, it is a foundation for California’s future — a fiscally responsible plan that seeks to make our state safer and more affordable, and to set our state on a better path for years to come.”

Within the $6.1 billion allocated for the electric vehicle sector is $256 million for low-income purchases of zero-emission vehicles, as well as $900 million to expand the affordable infrastructure necessary to power these vehicles, according to the Blueprint.

Another $3.9 billion would go toward adding zero-emission short-haul trucks and transit buses, supporting school transportation programs, funding zero-emission off-road equipment and fueling infrastructure and electrifying ports.

The Blueprint also allocates $9.1 billion to other climate-related transportation programs, such as advancing high-speed rail and improving equity and keeping communities connected by removing transportation barriers.

Another key component of the climate budget is $2 billion for a Clean Energy Investment Plan, which focuses on long-duration storage projects, green hydrogen, decarbonization of industry, offshore wind development and the adoption of energy technologies at food production facilities.

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There is also $648 million to support firefighters and an additional $1.2 billion — building on last year’s $1.5 billion investment — to bolster forest management and other practices that reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. 

To combat drought, the Blueprint makes available an additional $750 million beyond last year’s $5.2 billion water package, as an immediate response to assist residents, farmers and wildlife that have struggled amid drought conditions. 

The Blueprint allocates $1 billion toward sustainable housing, $415 million toward public health impacts from climate change, $465 million to expand climate-related job opportunities and more than $2 billion toward climate research in higher education and infrastructure upgrades at K-12 schools. 

Also included is a $3.7 billion investment to address the impacts of extreme heat, build coastal resilience, advance environmental justice and support nature-based climate solutions — which the Blueprint described as critical to the global effort to conserve 30 percent of natural areas by 2030. Another $1.1 billion is earmarked for developing climate-smart agricultural systems.

The Blueprint also discussed the Salton Sea’s untapped reserves of lithium, a critical component of electric vehicle batteries. While the document did not allocate specific funds to lithium development, it stressed that California has the potential “to become a global leader in the deployment of new, environmentally sound technologies that can coproduce lithium with renewable electricity from geothermal power.”

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California has a budget surplus of $45.7 billion, prioritizing one-time expenditures over ongoing spending, a news release form the governor’s office said.

“With major new investments to tackle the greatest threats to our state’s future, the California Blueprint lights the path forward to continue the historic progress we’ve made on our short-term and long-term challenges,” Newsom said in a statement.

Such challenges, he added, include “responding to the evolving pandemic, fighting the climate crisis, taking on persistent inequality and homelessness, keeping our streets safe and more.”

The Environmental Defense Fund described Newsom’s proposed state budget as “a demonstration of California’s climate leadership,” adding that the plans “will catalyze action beyond the state’s borders.”

“Governor Newsom’s budget proposal is a bold step toward ensuring California makes the investments necessary to address the magnitude of the climate crisis, improve environmental equity, support a clean economy and protect public health,” Katelyn Roedner Sutter, senior manager for U.S. climate at the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement.

Leaders at the University of California celebrated the proposal, stating that increased funds will enable ongoing research into climate resilience initiatives. The University of California stands to gain a chunk of the climate-related funds for research purposes, as well as a five-year compact that would increase state funds to the university system by 5 percent each year.

“Gov. Newsom’s budget proposal demonstrates his strong, continued dedication to furthering UC’s excellence,” University of California President Michael Drake said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to partner with his administration and with the state legislature as they finalize the budget in the months ahead.”