Gov. Jerry Brown plans to borrow $500 million from a program to fight climate change, as part of his effort to balance the budget - a move that has stirred up clean air advocates.
California has begun auctioning off carbon emission permits as part of its cap-and-trade program. They're basically licenses to pollute that businesses can buy to offset their emissions. The money -- $500 million collected so far -- goes into the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.
Brown wants to use that money to cover the state's general fund expenses, and pay it back later, with interest. He argues that it's okay to borrow the money because greenhouse gas reduction programs are just getting off the ground.
The Sierra Club, the Greenlining Institute and other environmental groups say the permit fees can only be spent on programs that reduce greenhouse gases.
They argue that some of the money the governor wants to borrow was going to fund clean air programs in low-income and minority neighborhoods near refineries and other sources of pollution.
The governor did sign a law last year meant to protect carbon fees from being diverted for general fund use. But SB 535 doesn't stop him from borrowing the money.