Governor Finds a New Way to Rob Transit Even More

5_15_09_Ahnold.jpgPhoto: Trinity County California Republican Party

This morning when I saw the L.A. Times headline about new budget cuts announced by Governor Schwarzenegger, I wasn’t worried.  After all, I knew this time there wasn’t anything else he could do to damage transportation and transit.  How much more damage could be done after he abolished state subsidies to transit in his most recent round of budget cuts?

According to the California Transit Association, in a press release forwarded by Kymberleigh Richards of So.CA.TA.,  there was more damage he could do.  An unexpected budget surplus created a lifeline for transit, and Schwarzenegger was there with the scissors to cut it:

…the governor apparently couldn’t
pass up another opportunity to inflict more damage on public
transportation in California. The revised budget proposal diverts another
$336 million in transit-dedicated "spillover" revenue to
instead cover transit bond debt service, which is by law a General Fund
obligation.


"It’s just more of the same from
a governor whose disdain for public transit has by now been
well-established," said a beleaguered Joshua W. Shaw, Executive
Director of the California Transit Association. "Just when you think
there’s nothing left to take, he finds a way to dig the hole even
deeper."

Since the last time the state created estimates on gas tax revenue sometime in the winter, higher than expected revenue from the state’s gas tax actually produced a surplus of several hundred million dollars. During the 2007 budget compromises, Schwarzengger agreed that any spillover would be split 50-50 between the General Fund and the Public Transportation Account.  The P.T.A. can be used to fund either capital projects or to restore some of the state’s now-missing operating funds.

However, yesterday Schwarzenegger ignored the agreement when he announced that the surplus is going to pay off bond debt and all of the $336 million was going to the general fund anyway before this budget maneuver.  Given the contempt the jet-setting Governor seems to hold public transit in, it’s hardly a surprise that he could "forget" an agreement reached two whole years ago or that he found a new way to rob transit agencies of funds they’ve been promised for years.  According to the C.T.A., the state has diverted over $5 billion in transit funds over the last decade, $3 billion in the last two years alone.

  • CTA has made the press release available on their website, for those who want to read it in its entirety:

    http://www.caltransit.org/node/808

  • I can see that the go-along-to-get-along politics of public transportation advocates has really paid off big time!

    I’ve got a political lens you guys can use in your future struggles for transportation funding: “Car vs Everything Else”. Help with that battle, and I think you’ll actually see some gains. California’s voting public is rapidly decanting from the suburbs into urban areas. Those left in suburbia will soon hardly show up on politicians’ radar – and their desire to keep highway subsidies at or above current levels won’t be able to beat back your desire to move humans efficiently and lower the capital costs of transportation.

  • I’ve always despised Arnold and never fell for his “green governor” bullshit, but keep in mind that not only is he trying to gut transit, he is trying to gut EVERYTHING that helps the people: health, education, housing, transit, etc.

  • @ubrayj02: The snide remarks are unwarranted, Umberto.

    If you had been involved in the attempts by the advocacy community to stop the STA cut, you would know that we didn’t “go along to get along”. But you weren’t in Sacramento with the rest of us, were you? No, you were too busy with your bike shop and your blog, while still believing you know everything.

    The aforementioned remark was due to your speaking from an uninformed position and I insist upon an apology for it.

  • You got me Kymberleigh, I was still busy in LA working on things I care about and can actually do something to fix.

    My snide remakrs aside, I was happy to hear that the governor finally attacked corrections – the 1 million pound gorilla sitting silently in the corner until now – in his budget. Hopefully we can put an end to our state’s stupid (yet popular) policies that lock up thousands of people for minor offenses and puts them on a fast track to return to prison over and over again.

    Sorry about the smart ass comments re:transit advocacy but there is so much car pork in “transit” policy discussions that just sort of get brushed over by the “serious” people in the debate that it is a bit annoying to hear you guys complain when the car projects are the only tings getting saved. Time to re-frame the debate!

  • Really, there needs to be a dedicated TAX on something, like gasoline, that goes into public transportation – a 3-5% excise tax on fuel, which would scale up in times of high gas prices like last summer so that transit agencies could quickly ramp up service, pay overtime, etc. for the increased demand. The problem is that Californians expect high services but low taxes. Due to poor fiscal management in the past, we’re paying for all of that, and then some.

  • ubrayj, let me reframe “our side” of the debate.

    We aren’t just complaining about “car projects”. In fact, there is still money coming through for transit infrastructure projects. The problem is that the operating subsidies are becoming non-existent, and there is little point to building a new rail line (as an example) if you don’t have the money to operate it once completed.

    In fact, in order to get federal funds for any new transit capital project, you have to prove you will have the money to run it. How the f*** are we going to do that with the state cutting the STA for an indeterminate period?

    I should also point out that “car projects” do have the potential for transit improvements. Roads are the “tracks” for any bus-based service. For example, adding the northbound carpool lanes on the 405 between the 10 and 101 will allow a project that Metro has on the drawing board to be implemented … a non-stop express bus between the Van Nuys Orange Line station and Westwood.

    Effective advocacy requires looking at the big picture, not just “things I care about and can actually do something to fix”.

  • David “Buster” Fitzpatrick

    We’re living at a time when the automobile/suburban spawl version oh the American Dream is becoming not only unfasionable but also downright unsustainable. Also I should point out there are an increasing number of us that can no longer drive for various political, economic, and personal reasons. We should get rid of the “governator” for trying to destroy public transit funding at a time when they’re most needed. It also bugs me too that he keeps trying to deny funding to such public services as schools, public libraries, fire departments, etc.. I think they should first force him to sell off that goddamned Hummer and also make ride the RT Metro,Amtrak, and perhaps one of the commuter train lines on a regular basis.

  • cph

    Did you see the results of the vote on May 19? No one wants to pay any more taxes for anything. With attitudes like that out there, it doesn’t matter who’s in the Governor’s seat….

  • cph

    Also, remember Proposition 96 (I think that was the number) about a year or so ago? It might have protected at least some of our transportation funding. But no one, except SO.CA.TA, lifted a finger to promote it. Where was the California Transit Association? Where was the Sierra Club? Where was even our illustrious BRU?

  • Clutch J

    The “go-along-to-get-along politics of public transportation advocates” comment was not at all unwarrented.

    Transit advocates were integral participants in the raid on general funds resulting in the Transportaton Congestion Relief Program and its successor Proposition 42. The transit lobby threw in with the highway lobby, abandoning advocates for walking, bicycling and livable communities. The end result has been that transit advocates cooperated with the road construction lobby to take money away from general fund programs that provide food, housing or medical assistance to California’s poorest, most vulnerable residents and divert the money to transportation programs.

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