Court Orders California to Stop Robbing Transit (Updated)

Things may have gotten a little more difficult for Governor Schwarzengger, who is already wrestling with the titanic task of trying to pass a balanced budget for the fiscal year starting today, when a California court of appeals ruled that the state needs to stop taking funds dedicated by voters towards transit projects and use it to try and close the gaping funding hole.

The California Transit Association, that called the winter budget deal that zeroed out the state's operations assistance program "Armageddon," were the plaintiffs in the case that resulted in yesterday's big win for transit.  They celebrated and explained the court decision yesterday.

While the Court claims no authority to order repayment of funds re-routed in past budget deals, the decision means that continued diversion of voter-mandated transit funding is illegal going forward. And that means that approximately $1 billion earmarked for the General Fund as part of current negotiations must be restored to transit.

“The ruling clearly states that the rip-offs are illegal,” said Joshua Shaw, Executive Director of the California Transit Association and lead plaintiff in the suit that was originally filed over $1.19 billion taken from the Public Transportation Account (PTA) as part of the 2007-08 budget agreement. “It says they’ve been illegal since before 2007, and it says that the definition of mass transportation that lawmakers have adopted since then to mask these diversions is illegal.”

Unsurprisingly, the Schwarzenegger Administration is already promising an appeal and is asking the appeals court to stay its decision pending the outcome.

Update: Dana Gabbard of So.CA.TA. sends the text of the decision.  It can be viewed here.