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.

  • The court case victory halting the legislature’s raid on public transit funds indicates how lost Californians’ priorities become in Sacramento’s budget mess. To cut traffic congestion and harmful pollution, California needs more public transportation. Recent ballot measure victories, including the passage of Measure R in Los Angeles, highlight that voters are willing to pay higher taxes to build it.

    Furthermore, there are solutions to balance the budget and pay for public transportation, including taxing oil companies, just like Texas and Alaska already do. But to date Sacramento has chosen to protect the oil companies and punish transit riders.

    Governor Schwarzenegger should support a budget that taxes oil companies to help pay for public transportation and other needs. Fellow Republican Gov. Sarah Palin does it. So should California.

    Emily Rusch is the State Director of the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG).

  • DJB

    This is nice in a way, but it’s also like finding a quarter on the deck of a sinking ship . . . with no lifeboats.

    CA is screwed because it takes a 2/3 majority to raise most taxes, and there isn’t political support in the state legislature to make the cuts necessary to balance budgets without tax increases.

    We need to change the state constitution or endure even more decades of fiscal insanity from Sacramento. Or should I say, from ourselves, since we passed Prop. 13 in 1978 (well, not me, but you get the idea).

  • Wad

    California’s only choice now is to be the recipient of an IMF structural adjustment package.

  • Spokker

    Rename ourselves The Republic of California and pretend to be a developing country. Oh wait, we don’t have to pretend anymore, ha.

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