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Gov. Jerry Brown pushes to extend cap-and-trade program with new budget proposal

 (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday his plan to prod lawmakers to solidify California's emissions cap-and-trade program, the centerpiece of the state's climate change agenda.

Pushing forward in California has only become more important with federal action on global warming less likely under President-elect Donald Trump's incoming administration, the governor said.

"Given the fact that the federal government is going in the opposite direction, I would think that Californians wants to strengthen their own commitment," he said during a Capitol news conference where he unveiled his budget plans. "We ought to continue and not fall back on our efforts."

Cap-and-trade works by requiring companies to purchase permits in order to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, creating a financial incentive to reduce pollution. The program is currently mired in a legal battle over whether it's an unconstitutional tax, and a court date is scheduled for later this month.

Brown wants to eliminate the uncertainty stemming from the lawsuit and other legal questions about whether the program can continue past 2020. His plan requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature, the legal standard for approving taxes.

Brown's fellow Democrats have the necessary supermajorities to approve cap-and-trade without Republican votes. But it's unlikely to be an easy lift, given divisions among Democrats about how closely to regulate industry and the best way to approach climate change.

As an inducement for lawmakers to act, the governor said he doesn't want to spend an estimated $2.2 billion in revenue projected from the cap-and-trade program until it is extended.

Brown counts on some of that money to fund construction of the bullet train, and lawmakers have allocated other dollars to their own priorities, such as affordable housing and local transit.

"it is an important program, and it generates important funds," Brown said.

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