SACRAMENTO (AP) — A citizens board tasked with overseeing projects funded by a California ballot measure intended to generate clean-energy jobs will move up its first meeting to early September, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon said Wednesday.
The Los Angeles Democrat’s announcement came after The Associated Press reported Monday that the board has never met and had not planned to meet until October or November.
Voters approved Proposition 39 in 2012 to raise taxes on corporations and send billions of dollars to schools for energy efficiency projects.
School districts are applying for funding, but so far the measure has generated barely one-tenth of the promised jobs, and the state has no comprehensive list of work done or energy saved.
De Leon, the state Energy Commission and Tom Steyer, a billionaire and philanthropist who campaigned with a personal $30 million to pass the measure, maintain the program is on track.
“We’re taking our time because I think that we want to do things right,” de Leon said at a news conference on late-term legislation. “We want to make sure there’s accountability and transparency.”
Though de Leon initially indicated he would be open to a legislative hearing on the proposition, his staff later clarified that the only hearing will be by the Citizens Oversight Board. They said, however, that there is no reason the board should have met sooner.
Democrats and Republicans have called for a legislative hearing to examine how Proposition 39 funds are being spent.
“It’s really too early for oversight, truth be told. It’s barely getting off the ground,” de Leon said.
Schools have so far received $297 million for projects, $153 million of which has been spent on consulting, energy audits and planning.
Kate Gordon, a member of the Citizens Oversight Board, also defended Proposition 39 in a blog post Tuesday.
“Evaluating Proposition 39 after just over a year of its 5-year operation is like calling the Super Bowl after just a week of preseason games. It’s simply not reasonable,” wrote Gordon, former director of the energy and climate program at Steyer’s Next Generation, an alternative energy advocacy group.
Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday the Department of Energy has assured him Proposition 39 spending is on track.
“I’ll take a look at that, but just know, government has a hard time collecting money and, surprisingly, it has a hard time spending money,” Brown, a Democrat, said.
The challenges include myriad hoops that government officials have to go through to ensure they are following laws, Brown said, noting public spending must move at a different pace than private spending.