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Activists Urge Davis to Cut $23 Billion in Spending

California and the West

Finances: 'Green Watchdog' report tells governor that savings from anti-environment programs will help offset energy crisis.

May 02, 2001|SEEMA MEHTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A coalition of environmental, taxpayer and consumer groups Tuesday urged Gov. Gray Davis to cut more than $23 billion over the next five years in programs that they say harm the state's environment.

CalPIRG, the California Tax Reform Assn. and others called for nearly $4.7 billion in annual cuts as part of their "Green Watchdog" report, which recommends eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies, auctioning air pollution credits, stopping parking subsidies that discourage mass transportation and instituting other reforms.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 5, 2001 Orange County Edition California Part B Page 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
Water district: An article Wednesday incorrectly described the agreement between the Metropolitan Water District and the Santa Monica-based Cadiz Inc. for a plan to extract water from beneath the Mojave Desert. The water district's governing board has adopted financial terms that would be used to finalize a contract with Cadiz if the project moves forward.

"Our message to the governor is: 'Let's save some money, save the environment and put our budget back in line,' " said Doug Linney, executive director of Oakland-based Green Capital, one of the four main groups to collaborate on Tuesday's report. Green Capital bills itself as a fiscal watchdog for the environmental movement.

The report says the money saved could be used to help offset the energy crisis, which is costing state taxpayers an average of $50 million a day.

"Last year, we were fighting over how to spend money," Linney said. "Now, we're looking at the rubble we once called a surplus and looking for some extra money."

A spokeswoman for the Davis administration said Davis has not yet had time to review the budget proposals in the report.

"The governor is in the process of reviewing the [proposed] budget," spokeswoman Hilary McLean said. "This is the time that groups and organizations and officials start presenting ideas on how the budget might be modified. It will certainly be reviewed."

Other recommendations by the groups include:

* Stop construction of the Long Beach Freeway through South Pasadena, which would save $220 million in state funds.

* Stop $130 million in public funds from being spent on building California 125, a proposed toll road in San Diego County.

* Auction air pollution credits, which proponents say would have raised about $80 million over the past five years.

* Eliminate the sales tax exemption for pesticides and increase the pesticide mill fee, which would save taxpayers $85 million over the next five years.

The group also called for saving $50 million in state water bond funds intended for a $1-billion project that would extract water from an aquifer below the Mojave Desert. The report says the deal would primarily benefit Cadiz Land Co., which owns the property where the water would be pumped.

But an official with the Metropolitan Water District, which has a contract with the Santa Monica-based Cadiz, said that proposal is misleading.

"At this point, we do not intend to seek state bond funds for the Cadiz project," said Bob Muir, an MWD spokesman. He said the water district is seeking funding for a different ground-water storage project in the Hayfield Basin.

But David Madland, editor of the report, said, "They haven't finalized how they're going to pay for the project. . . . They say at this point they're not [seeking water bond money]. We want to make sure they keep that promise."

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