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Amid budget debate, Democrats push for green-energy legislation

February 2, 2011 | 12:50 pm

As the Legislature vets Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal, Democratic leaders are hoping to fast-track a series of bills that they say will spur job creation and ensure California’s role as a leader in renewable energy.

The legislative package, unveiled at a morning news conference Wednesday in the Capitol, includes a bill that would require the state’s electric utilities to get a third of their power from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2020. The measure was repeatedly vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said the bill imposed overly tight restrictions on utilities.

Democrats are also pursuing legislation that would cut red tape for the siting and construction of green energy projects, develop technical training programs for high school students and provide state guarantees for loans to homeowners who upgrade their energy efficiency.

“While resolving the budget is our first order of business, we are serious about rebuilding California’s economy,” said state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg.

State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), the author of the green portfolio bill, said California utilities were already on track this year to meet the existing requirement that they get 20% of their power from renewable sources. "If we send a clear message to the marketplace, the market will respond," he said.

As for the budget, Democratic leaders rejected a conservative idea to place a measure on the ballot that would cut taxes as much as Brown’s measure would raise them. Assembly Speaker John A. Perez called the proposal "laughable."

"What those people are saying is, 'We’re in a hole, let’s dig deeper,' " he said.

Steinberg challenged Republicans to put their proposals in writing.

"Their first step is to put pen to paper,” he said.

RELATED: Toxic chemicals are on Brown's agenda

                     Jerry Brown: A new direction on eco-issues?

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

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