Help Stop Further State Cuts to Transit Operations

6_15_09_caltrain.jpgCaltrain parked in SF. Photo: smif/flickr

Last month, Streetsblog we saw that thanks to some creative accounting, Governor Schwarzenegger had found a new and creative way to rob transit even after he effectively eliminated the transit subsidy that exists in the state budget.  Because the gas tax is producing more funds than expected, hundreds of millions of dollars in transit funds appeared in state coffers.  However, as quickly as it appeared, the Governor proposed spending it on the giant gaping hole that in the state budget.

News comes from CALPIRG, that last week a joint budget committee met to decide what to do with the Governor’s proposal.  Via an email to their members, CALPIRG reports that there was signifigant opposition to the Governor’s proposal from the Democratic Caucus:

On Thursday the Legislature’s Budget Conference
Committee took up the Governor’s
proposal to shift another $336 million in “spillover” funds away
from transit to the General Fund. Senators Ducheny and Leno, and
Assembly Members
Evans (Chair) and Blumenfield all made substantial comments reflecting
their distaste
for the proposal, their acknowledgment that the February budget and
the last
several budgets have decimated transit funding, and their desire to
find a
solution to fund transit operations. 

But the battle is far from over.  After the jump you can find the entire text of CALPIRG’s appeal to members to help fight further rollbacks in the legislature.

As most of you know, the legislature has raided
transit operations funding for other general fund needs. As a result
transit services have been significantly reduced, and fares risen, in
cities throughout the state. As the price of gasoline goes back up, so
has the portion of the sales tax on gasoline legally dedicated to
transit operations, but the legislature could raid 100% of those new
funds unless they hear from supporters.

Please
contact your legislators and urge them to SUPPORT the Conference
Committee’s
direction to find a way to restore SOME 2009-10 transit funding
.

Here is a link to detailed information about
transit fare hikes and service cuts throughout the state, job losses,
and transit capital projects that have been delayed:
http://www.caltransit.org/files/resources/07%20STA%20member%20survey.doc

Here are more details from last Thursday’s
hearing, from Josh Shaw at the California Transit Association:

On Thursday the Legislature’s Budget Conference
Committee took up the Governor’s
proposal to shift another $336 million in “spillover” funds away
from transit to the General Fund. Senators Ducheny and Leno, and
Assembly Members
Evans (Chair) and Blumenfield all made substantial comments reflecting
their distaste
for the proposal, their acknowledgment that the February budget and
the last
several budgets have decimated transit funding, and their desire to
find a
solution to fund transit operations. (Senator Lowenthal was absent for
the
moment, but Senator Ducheny said that her remarks especially reflected
what she
knew to be his concerns.) No Republican members made comments.

Senator Ducheny
specifically asked for the item to be kept
open, and that the Committee and staff look for a way to save $100
million for
transit, through savings elsewhere or some other development or
breakthrough. Chair
Evans said they all knew they would need to eventually take “most if
not this
entire source,” but she finally agreed to keep it open in deference to
her colleagues’ remarks. Budget staff was asked to consider ways to
provide some amount of funding for transit, and some justification for
the amount
and to possibly include this discussion in the open local government
discussion.

Please specifically ask
your legislators to talk to the
Conference Committee members personally – and to each caucus’
leadership – to carry the message that they, too, support the effort to
find SOME funding for transit. Make that your message and we will work
with legislative
and budget staff to define appropriate amounts and mechanisms to
achieve that restoration.

  • DJB

    As much as I hate to see transit cuts, we have to recognize that this situation is made inevitable by Prop. 13’s requirement that most tax increases come by a 2/3 vote.

    If the cuts don’t come from here, they will come from another worthy program. The governor doesn’t have the luxury of thinking about just one issue, and neither should we.

    If I were king of California I’d solve this budget problem by raising income taxes progressively, raising gasoline taxes modestly and establishing a better rainy day fund, but since that’s not the case, we have to realize that the only way to secure our publicly-funded aspirations is to reform California’s budget process, which has been chronically dysfunctional for at least a decade largely because it takes a super-majority vote to fund the public services we need.

  • Alek F

    I think,
    the fundamental problem lies not in our State budget (although it’s certainly messed-up as well), but in our Federal funding!
    Federal government need to launch their “Stimulus package” towards public transportation, especially for California! They need to “bailout” our California budget deficit!! I see that as the only solution, and is something that will prevent huge cuts everywhere. It’s time for our government to STOP paying for moneymaking giants like Automakers (who are, sorry to say, losing business anyway), but to START paying for improving our mobility options! Mr. Obama, please give us our public transportation money that we deserve!!

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