In September 2006, Gov. Janet Napolitano issued an executive order directing the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to adopt and implement California's Low Emission Vehicle Program, or CA LEV. With a stroke of the pen, and no explanation of CA LEV's implications, the governor single-handedly put Arizona on the road to becoming subservient to the whims of California.
The governor's Regulatory Review Council is now scheduled to take action on the ADEQ final rules package Tuesday. If those rules are implemented, Arizona will be held to much stricter California fuel economy standards. In essence, this will give the California Air Resources Board the ability to decide which new cars and trucks can be sold in Arizona.
California severely limits which vehicles can be sold in its state. Under the plan, like it or not, Arizona would have to live by California standards. But California's standards were designed specifically for the Golden State. The fact that Arizona residents prefer light trucks and SUVs, and California residents prefer passenger cars, won't matter.
California's tough standards will result in limited availability and product restrictions for the light trucks and SUVs that we like to drive. I doubt many Arizonans believe that California should dictate what cars Arizona consumers can buy.
It gets worse - this plan will cost you money. New trucks and SUVs will have reduced availability, which will drive up the price. California standards will increase new vehicle costs by thousands of dollars. This will result in vehicle owners keeping older cars longer or buying used cars with less effective emissions control equipment - and reduce sales of new vehicles and accompanying tax revenues. That is a lose-lose proposition.
Car dealers - our largest single source of sales tax revenues - predict a loss of sales to neighboring states that stick with the federal program, under which trucks and SUVs will continue to be plentiful. Given the unprecedented fiscal crisis the state is grappling with, this is not the time to adopt a policy that will negatively affect state revenues such as sales taxes, vehicle license taxes and gas taxes.
The federal government has adopted new, increased fuel economy requirements just in the past few weeks - requirements that will protect our environment without jeopardizing our fiscal situation or denying consumer preferences. These tougher standards were obviously not known at the time of the governor's executive order.
The governor now has a choice - she can continue on the path toward ceding Arizona's authority to California bureaucrats, or she can pull back and allow the new federal standards to go into effect. This would allow Arizona to move toward cleaner air while not putting our families and the state's economy at risk. My guess is that the governor will be smart enough to keep Arizona's fate out of the hands of California bureaucrats.
Sen. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and vice-chairman of the Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee.