Could CA budget cost us the environment?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. California lost more than 150,000 jobs in November and December alone. So the move to create more jobs at the capital may come at a price.

Republicans are pushing to relax some /*environmental regulations*/, which they claim delay projects. They say that would be a way to jump-start the creation of new jobs. Relaxing the regulations would include excusing construction firms from retrofitting their diesel off-road vehicles and protecting developers from lawsuits over /*greenhouse gas reduction laws*/.

GOP leaders may even be willing to agree to new tax hikes in the state budget in exchange for the temporary environmental rollbacks.

"People are hurting. We need to put people to work. We're just looking for ways to streamline that process; not skirt any of the environmental laws or get around the needed mitigation," said state Senator Dave Cogdill (R-Fresno).

Environmentalists are outraged Republicans would even bring in changes to the new regulations as a bargaining chip to the state budget. The two groups have always clashed over how businesses can expand without harming the environment.

"Californians want clean air. They've said it over and over again," said Kathryn Phillips, /*Environmental Defense Fund*/. "It makes no sense to go in now and say, 'You can't have clean air because a few of us have never liked those laws. And we're going to use the budget process to take those regulations away.'"

/*Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger*/ (R-California) met with his economic team, headed by former Secretary of State /*George Schultz*/. Job creation was at the top of their agenda.

Earlier, the governor called legislative leaders to his office to try again to negotiate the budget. Democrats say they're not about to give in to environmental rollbacks.

"Economic stimulus is very important. We believe you can have economic stimulus without compromising the environment," said Assembly Speaker /*Karen Bass*/ (D-Los Angeles).

Environmentalists worry because state leaders are so desperate for a budget solution they could agree to the rollbacks.

For the unemployed in California, any job sounds great regardless of the consequences. The state's unemployment rate is at 9.3 percent.

"The environment is very important. But right now, people need to work. The lines are really long here for unemployment. We really need some help," said Troy Adams, who is unemployed.

Republicans have already submitted draft proposals on the environmental rollbacks. So they would be ready to attach to a budget bill if the governor and Democrats agree.


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