One of California’s most hotly contested ballot measures, Proposition 30, appears poised for defeat as voters considered a measure to fund electric vehicle subsidies and wildfire preparedness through a tax on millionaires.

Prop. 30 is facing strong headwinds with votes against the measure leading by a nearly 15-point margin, according to a tally of over 4.5 million ballots cast.

Voters appeared to resonate with criticism of the ballot measure as “corporate welfare” to the ride-hailing company Lyft, which bankrolled much of the campaign in support of Prop. 30.

If approved, the measure would have increased taxes on income over $2 million by 1.75% for the next 20 years. The proposition was estimated to raise between $3 billion and $5 billion annually with 80% of funds directed towards boosting the state’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure and subsidies to help residents purchase new electric vehicles. The remaining 20% would go to expanding the ranks of firefighters and wildfire preparedness actions like prescribed burns and forest thinning.

Prop. 30 divided the state’s Democratic establishment with Gov. Gavin Newsom bucking his own party in opposing the ballot measure. It was an unusual stance for the governor, who has made fighting climate change a key pillar of his tenure and backed the state’s mandate to phase out new gas-powered cars by 2035. He stood in opposition alongside state Republicans, a major teacher’s union, business groups, and The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a conservative anti-tax group.

Prop. 30’s coalition of supporters included environmental groups, Lyft, the California Democratic Party, and the mayors of San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.

Lyft is Prop. 30’s largest single donor and Gov. Newsom railed against the tax measure. By 2030 ride-hailing companies, including Uber and Lyft, are required to use zero-emission vehicles for at least 90% of their miles. However, environmental groups and other backers noted the legislation was written before they ever asked Lyft to open its deep pockets and back the measure.

“Prop. 30 is being advertised as a climate initiative. But in reality, it was devised by a single corporation to funnel state income taxes to benefit their company,” Newsom said in an ad campaign that blanketed television screens in recent months.

Pro. 30 backers said California needs dedicated funding to ensure its the state’s transition away from gas-powered cars, improve air quality, and battle climate change. Transportation accounts for 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, and increasingly deadly wildfires are another major source of carbon.

Newsom has also warned that rich taxpayers may leave the state under the tax scheme and ultimately hurt the state’s budget, which relies heavily on income taxes from wealthy residents.

Paul Rogers and The Associated Press contributed to this story. 


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