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Brown, senator at odds over clean energy money

Justice SystemCrime, Law and JusticeJerry BrownPoliticsEnergyEnergy Saving

SACRAMENTO -- Six months after voters approved new taxes to fund clean energy projects, Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers remain at odds over how to spend the money on improving energy efficiency at public schools and community colleges.

Brown, who is scheduled to release his revised budget on Tuesday, is expected to tweak his original plan to distribute the money based on how many students are in each school district. But Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) believes the governor isn't doing enough to ensure the new taxes are spent wisely.

"It's still a bad proposal," said Greg Hayes, a spokesman for the senator.

The disagreement highlights the difficulty of translating lofty ballot campaigns into detailed legislative policy. A number of lawmakers criticized the governor's plans last month, and the nonpartisan legislative analyst's office has also disagreed with the administration.

Proposition 39 changed the corporate tax code to generate up to $1 billion a year in new taxes, and half the revenue is supposed to be dedicated to clean energy projects over the next five years.

Brown and de León both want to use the money to boost energy efficiency at schools  and community colleges, such as installing updated ventilation systems. But de León says distributing the funding based on how many students are in each district fails to take into account schools' varying needs for energy improvements.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Brown's Department of Finance, said the governor may change his proposal to ensure each school receives a minimum amount of funding.

“We’ve heard the concerns and are taking them seriously," he said.

There are also disagreements on how the state will monitor the use of Proposition 39 revenue. Palmer said schools and community colleges will have to report back to the state on how they spend the money.

“We think there’s pretty clear structure for accountability," he said.

Hayes disagreed, and said there should be more detailed benchmarks, including how much energy is saved, air quality and whether students' test scores improve once buildings are upgraded.

"There's a special obligation that we honor the voters' trust and demand vigorous accountability," Hayes said. 

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Twitter: @chrismegerian

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