De León, Steyer Team Up for Climate Change Agenda

de Leon and Steyer (Charley Gallay / Getty)
Charley Gallay / Getty

California Senate leader Kevin de León, 48, and billionaire Tom Steyer, 58, are the state’s new green “power couple,” teaming up to push legislation that would address climate change, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

The two men, who are often seen together at environmental and political events, worked together to pass Proposition 39 in 2012, which Steyer funded with $30 million. Prop 39 required out-of-state businesses to calculate their California income tax liability based on the percentage of their sales in California; took away the option for out-of-state businesses to choose a tax liability formula giving them favorable tax treatment; and made the state cough up $550 million annually for five years to “create energy efficiency and clean energy jobs” in California.

Steyer’s nonprofit advocacy group, Next Gen Climate Action, has taken out ads backing de León’s Senate Bill 350, which would require California to reduce petroleum use by 50%, support greater use of wind and solar power, and support more energy efficiency in buildings. In April, the two men sat next to each other as they prepared to testify on behalf of the bill.

The two men met first in 2011 at a policy meeting of Senate Democrats in Sacramento. De León said they “hit it off because we had the same goals: economic growth, job creation and cleaning up our environment,” according to the Mercury News. De Leon recently told the Mercury News, “We share the same goals together. And we continue to be supportive of each other because this is an issue we care deeply about.”

Steyer has poured over $39 million into California political campaigns since 2000.

Sabrina Lockhart, spokeswoman for Californians for Energy Independence, which opposes Steyer’s wish to have oil companies taxed for oil extraction, pointed out the impropriety of Steyer’s involvement in the issue, telling the Mercury News, “It is a concern that a hedge fund billionaire who made his fortune off fossil fuels is now promoting policies that he can profit from.”