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Nov 06, 2008 - 04:00 PM

Arnold's Oil Tax Epiphany?

by Judy Dugan
I've been out of town for several days, and the news today makes me wonder if the governor of California had a near-religious epiphany while I was gone. Arnold Schwarzenegger just embraced a proposal for a 9.9% extraction tax on oil drilled in in the state, among a raft of other taxes. This is the same Schwarzenegger who was a main force in defeating Proposition 87, the 2006 clean-energy ballot measure that would have imposed a smaller extraction tax on oil.

Either Schwarzenegger has a pocket deal with no-taxes-ever Republicans in the Legislature, in which case he's a miracle worker, or he's grandstanding to burnish his green credentials, knowing it'll never pass. Maybe he has one eye on predictions that he'll be named Energy Secretary in the Obama administration--his name is first on Politico's list.

California voted blue but it's bleeding red, to the tune of $11.5 billion even after a new budget that was intended to patch over the deficit. Schwarzenegger knows he can't possibly cut enough to fill the gap, and the oil tax--something every other oil-producing state already imposes--would bring in about $1.2 billion a year. If Sarah Palin's Alaska can wallow up to the neck in oil-extraction bucks, California ought to get at least ankle-deep.

Schwarzenegger got his original green cred in the state with a sweeping air quality/global warming bill that he cobbled together with Democrats. But he's also taken at least $4.3 million in contributions from the oil and energy industry--and he put the brakes the brakes on tough regulations needed to enforce his global warming bill. His overall report card is no better than pale green: Here's the list, from

I sure hope Arnold means what he says, and that he actually has the clout to bring on board enough Republicans to get the oil tax passed. History says otherwise, but I'd love dearly to be proved wrong.

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