What’s the future for California with a Donald Trump White House? Nationally, an overwhelming majority of governors’ offices and state legislatures are in Republican hands. In California however, Republicans don’t hold any statewide offices; now they have a president and party leader they didn’t embrace during the national election. Democrats remain firmly in control in Sacramento but federal funding for their big-ticket priorities - high speed rail, delta tunnels, clean energy - is now in question. The country's biggest and bluest state is at odds with the emerging administration on immigration, trade, the Supreme Court, social issues and fossil fuels.
Climate One convened a panel of Democrat and Republican insiders to ask, what’s next for California? Not surprisingly, environmental concerns were at the top of the list.
President-elect Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a “hoax,” has alarmed many by nominating denialist Scott Pruitt to head up the EPA. This just means the need for greater vigilance for California’s leadership going forward, says California Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond).
“California has led the way in LGBT rights, protecting women's rights, immigration issues, education,” Thurmond points out. “Having the two-thirds majority [in the legislature] will give us the votes that we need to protect everything that we've done to work against climate change.
“We’re going to need that two-thirds majority to bolster what California can do and hopefully be a shining example for the rest of our nation.”
One area of common ground for both parties is the need for bolstering infrastructure, and the jobs it can provide.
“But we have to start with talking to the workers about the work that they do and what they need,” says Christine Pelosi. The daughter of Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, she is a political strategist and a California superdelegate. “So if by infrastructure we mean we’re going to have a jobs plan that puts money in the pockets of workers, then yes we can agree with that.
“But if by infrastructure plan you mean a tax credit for people who already have projects in the pipeline, that's not going to succeed,” she continues. “If people don't immediately see shovel ready jobs, that’s going to fall apart and I think the voters will rightly turn on Democrats and Republicans.”
Duf Sundheim, a Republican who lost a bid for state senator this year, worries that California’s reputation for heavy-handed environmental regulations will keep federal funding out of the pipeline. “You know, Governor Brown has tried to do a transportation bill, he's not able to get that through. He's tried to do a housing bill, unable to get that through.
“So they're very strong regulatory, we don't want to get things fixed, we don't want to build things in the state that are going to have to be overcome. And that's much more difficult here than it is in the other forty-nine states.”
“We all want jobs -- but we don't have to have jobs that are going to kill us,” counters Thurmond. His district is home to the Chevron Refinery, one of the state’s biggest polluters. Thurmond maintains that California can lead the way in job creation by promoting the clean tech sector.
“I do believe that we are transitioning into a more green technology,” agrees Strickland. “But I also think that government sometimes creates regulations where the technology doesn't exist…to say that we’re going to just flip it around and in such a short time isn’t sensible. It just won't happen.”
Sundheim stresses the need for “common sense regulations” that strike a balance between economic and environmental concerns.
“Because we do need cleaner air, we do need cleaner water, but at the same time we also have to understand that there's an economic earthquake in this state,” he continues. “There are 8.9 Californians living in poverty…more than in 39 of the 50 states. So we just want to make sure as we make this transition we take into account all those people that are being left out of the American dream.”
“We’re happy to have those conversations, we want support California business,” Thurmond agrees, adding, “But we cannot put our head in the sand and say that climate change is not real, or because it costs too much to address it we’re not going to do anything.”