Community Voices: Kern County Suffers; will Sacramento’s promises make a difference? | voices of the community

The impact of California politics on energy production has shown Kern that we are less important than other regions in California. Despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s commitment to “Regions Rise Together” and his stated vision of “inclusive and sustainable economic development,” government regulators are pursuing policies to curtail, and then shut down, oil and gas production.

This will devastate the region’s economy and prevent the county from funding priority programs and providing vital services to residents. While the government’s restrictions are not unexpected — the governor has been very transparent in his efforts to advance an agenda on climate change — no efforts have been made to mitigate the significant impact on our county’s businesses, jobs, families and safety net.

With the release of his 2022 budget proposal this month, the governor has proposed funds to support the region’s transition away from oil production, including a one-time commitment of $15 million to train displaced oil workers and $50 million for “short-term… Support”. But is that enough? No, it is far from sufficient. When you combine the loss of quality, well-paying jobs with the loss of critical property tax revenues used to fund vital community services, where does Kern County remain?

The Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment said it will urge the government to increase allocations for replacement wages, health care and training for displaced oil workers “and to ensure transition-affected communities also receive funding to offset any fossil fuel tax base.” to replace and maintain vital public services.”

If Newsom and lawmakers hold Kern as highly as they have claimed, in addition to this one-time budget commitment, they will also upgrade the Regions Rise Together funding initiative with a concrete and comprehensive economic revitalization package to support dependent communities and industries that are growing State eliminated.

There is precedent for such support for other regions that have been disproportionately affected by industrial disruptions. As film production began to migrate to states with more favorable production tax incentives, the state sought to establish tax credits for qualifying productions produced in California to support the film industry.

With 1 in 7 workers in Kern employed or associated with the petroleum industry, the state’s efforts to halt energy production are resulting in layoffs, business closures, human suffering and are affecting the county’s ability to provide necessary services such as health care, police and fire services , education and social services.

The total elimination of industry, even gradual elimination, is nothing short of catastrophic. While our economy is vulnerable to volatility, our population is even more at risk. A fifth of Kern’s residents live in poverty; Almost 30 percent of children under the age of 18 live in poverty, and more than 70 percent of public school students are considered economically disadvantaged.

The Governor’s Just Transition, a key component of the Regions Rise Together platform, promises transitions to carbon neutrality that “need to focus on both communities and workers that rely heavily on fossil fuels or other traditional industries, as well as those who… Creating economic opportunities for disadvantaged communities hardest hit by the climate crisis.”

But there’s no realistic transition plan for Kern. There’s no ability to sustain quality jobs, no obvious industry waiting in the wings, and no existing plan to expand a ragged safety net. Ironically, California offers tax breaks for alternative energy development that should, in theory, help the region. But the abundance of solar and wind power in Kern is helping out-of-area energy consumers and hurting the county by reducing local property tax revenues.

And the government’s well-intentioned actions will require the state to import energy from foreign sources and increase greenhouse gas emissions until gas vehicles are phased out entirely. The state’s dangerous course of action robs the county of the ability to improve the lives of its citizens while not taking full responsibility for the damage caused. As economic difficulties mount, the county will find itself increasingly cash-strapped, helpless to do more than watch as our region stagnates and suffers.

The governor and legislature must acknowledge the hardships imposed by the state, review the policies and their impact that caused the hardship, and propose solutions that will help Kern residents in the short and long term.

Ryan Alsop is Kern County’s Chief Administrative Officer.

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