Statewide/Local Advocates Slam Schwarzenegger’s Rumored End-Around Cut on Transit Funding

1_7_19_bru.jpgIf the BRU is willing to protest Obama, I can’t wait to see what they have to say about another operating cut from the State. Photo: Streetsblog/Flickr

Local transit advocates are reacting with fury to the Governor’s rumored plan to skirt a court ruling requiring that the state stop robbing transit funds dedicated in the gas tax by completely revoking the tax and reinstating it as an excise tax.

As reported recently in the LA Times, and briefly discussed here on Monday, to close a looming $20.7 billion budget deficit,
Schwarzenegger is expected to release a plan this Friday to eliminate
the state’s gas tax, which has specific mandates to provide funding for
transit, and replace it with an excise tax that would not have transit
funding requirements. The net effect would be 5 cents less per gallon
at the pump and continued decimation of state funding for transit
operators.

Erin Steva, the transportation advocate for CALPIRG, makes the case that the Governor’s end run on state law is not just bad policy, but politically tone deaf, "  Raiding public transportation funding is the wrong move. We need more
transit, not less to keep our cities moving and our economy strong.
Cutting public transit funding goes against California’s commitment to
fight global warming pollution and clearly violates the voter’s will to
expand, not contract, transit."

"It’s what we feared," said California Transit Association (CTA)
spokesperson Jeff Wagner told SF Streetsblog earlier this week. "This proposal circumvents both the law and
the will of the voters. The court ruled they had to stop doing it, so
what do they do? They change the laws that were in place. Time and
again, transit has been the piggy bank they’ve gone to to fill
in the gaps in the other stuff. It’s shortsighted and it’s in blatant
contravention of the voters’ will."

Wagner said the CTA was tempered in its reaction to its victory in
court last year, saying they assumed the governor could come up with a
scheme to continue taking money from transit to plug the general fund
hole. "We knew that our lawsuit victory would provide us with some
reprieve, but we were cautious. We knew that it wasn’t beneath this
administration."

Locally, transit advocates were just as outraged.

Transit Coalition executive director Bart Reed tells LA Streetsblog, "We’re basing these comments on rumors, but unfortunately with this Governor rumors often turn out to get worse as they get closer to policy.  The Governor is disingenuos when he claims to be green on transportation.  The only time he’s green is when a special interest lobbies to turn a brown project green or when it comes to promoting cars that are slightly more clean than others.  The stats are there showing that transit is greener, more efficient and more cost efficient than even the cleanest cars, yet he proposes another slap in the face to transit riders.  Hopefully this proposal never makes it to the legislature, but even if it does let’s hope the Senate and Assembly reject it before a court has to slap the Governor in the face again."

Southern California Transit Advocates Dana Gabbard was just as critical, but also offered some hope for the future, "I think this will just add momentum to the efforts of the transit
industry to have a initiative on the ballot later this year that
creates a firewall to protect transit funding from further raids. I
know SO.CA.TA at its meeting Saturday will discuss our plans to help
gather signatures!

And I think my previous comments pretty well says it all.

All of this is regrettable and certainly in the long run the
shortchanging of transit is shortsighted. We should be preparing for
the future but many officials persist in praising transit while robbing
it of the means of being able to handle a surge of demand when gas
prices spike again. So frustrating! "

However, Damien Goodmon suggests a practical lobbying solution for transit boosters, "Perhaps the Governator needs to be reminded that in a few months now
he’ll no longer have his police escort.  More transit cuts mean more
hoopdies on the road and more traffic backups from broken down cars.  We must appeal to his personal selfishness."

As this plan continues to move forward, check back here for more details, reaction and analysis.

19 thoughts on Statewide/Local Advocates Slam Schwarzenegger’s Rumored End-Around Cut on Transit Funding

  1. The initiative (and addeneda) are posted on the Attorney General’s website:

    http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/initiatives/pdfs/i861_initiative_09-0064.pdf
    http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/initiatives/pdfs/i860_initiative_09-0063_amdt_1-ns.pdf

    Here are details on the SO.CA.TA meeting on Saturday:

    http://socata.net/meetings.html

    We are supposed to have a representative from the L.A. Mayor’s office as guest speaker, discuss the 30 in 10 proposal.

    The fundamental problem at the state level is structural, thanks to voter passed measures like Props 13 and 98. Republicans thanks to custom designed legislative districts can spout nonsense, block any tax hikes and not be held accountable. The Governor doesn’t help things with his talk of no cuts to education and that any tax reform be based on DOA recommendations from a Blue Ribbon Commission whose basic approach has zero political reality. Beyond surreal.

    And yet, yes, we will go to war and try to stop this stupidity. If we lose, at least we’ll go down swinging!

  2. Why are freeway routes never cut? It would make a lot of sense to shut down the 105 in the midst of a recession to save on maintenance. Better yet, stop repaving the 710 and close it down. That thing gets hammered on a daily basis.

  3. freeway construction does get cut and delayed because of budget issues. often.

    Folks, transit and freeways have maintenance and operations costs. If you are clueless about the massive liabilities hole the state is in it is time to wake up, you slept ’till lunch time.

    Don’t protest the results, work to avoid the causes. Learn about where the money is going. I move that we turn all the high speed rail money into local transit funding. Are you going to use a bus everyday or HSR?

    If you have a love affair with HSR it is easy to not do the calculations on the cost and realize that it is a trade off. I vote for local buses because, HSR is going to be an easy terrorist target, promotes sprawl, takes longer than a plane, and costs more than driving the family to SF. (see New York Times 8/12/09: http://tinyurl.com/qno8c6)

    Pensions will kill buses. I then move that we convert all cal employees to 401k style/annuity plans like the private sector. It is time to stop over paying public employees.

    Yes, many of them are overpaid. I am a public employee on a CALPERS pension (It assumes a 7.75% AVERAGE annual return and when it doesn’t produce then GOOD LUCK FUNDING TRANSIT! The scale of the pension problem is huge and it will be a giant vacuum cleaner of public funding)

    The pensions are the issue that is cause of even worse FUTURE FUNDING PROBLEMS. Don’t whine about the results later if you don’t fix the cause now.

    If I didn’t stir the pot enough yet, it time to stop saying that the state of California is an endless pot of wealth that can absorb an unlimited number of poor immigrants (who eat less locally, and drive more once they migrate north). My mother is first generation from Guatemala. We should decide how many people to add to our population each year. Beyond that we can send monetary assistance to people in situ.

    We must lay a financial framework for near term and long-term financial sustainability.

  4. Man, we are really screwed.

    We’re essentially doubling down on a losing hand of auto dependence, social isolation, with no productive industry other than services and finance.

  5. What’s the most idiotic of Arnold’s plan is that it CUTS taxes when we shouldn’t be cutting taxes. You know parties are going to lay claim “look, we just cut .05 worth of taxes each time YOU fill the gas pump”. Ridiculous…bar none…ridiculous. That’s the biggest slap in the face, in my opinion.

  6. “freeway construction does get cut and delayed because of budget issues. often.”

    I’m not talking about freeway construction. I’m talking about shutting down a freeway so we don’t have to pay to maintain it. In transit, capital and operations both get cut.

    Freeway construction in this region is over anyway. The Century Freeway was allowed to rape predominantly black neighborhoods one last time before new freeway construction became infeasible here.

    “Are you going to use a bus everyday or HSR?”

    I’m not going to use either. I’m driving. Out of California.

    “HSR is going to be an easy terrorist target”

    Haha, no it isn’t.

    “takes longer than a plane”

    That’s debatable if you’re talking door-to-door.

    “costs more than driving the family to SF”

    Irrelevant. The goddamn thing is going to be paid for by business travelers who get reimbursed so they don’t care what the fucking thing costs to ride. It will probably be profitable enough to subsidize all your pathetic buses.

    “I then move that we convert all cal employees to 401k style/annuity plans like the private sector. It is time to stop over paying public employees.”

    Bwahahahaha, good luck with that.

    “it time to stop saying that the state of California is an endless pot of wealth that can absorb an unlimited number of poor immigrants”

    Illegal immigrants are the only thing holding this economy up as we exploit their labor for the stupid, cheap shit we want. $14 heads of lettuce would kill us. Wait a second, Americans don’t get lettuce anymore. Even if you do, you risk food poisoning. LETTUCE!

    “We should decide how many people to add to our population each year.”

    Uh, you don’t decide that. Any attempts to control immigration are futile.

    “We must lay a financial framework for near term and long-term financial sustainability.”

    In a few years there will not be a California and in a few more years after that the Empire of the United States will fall. Preparing for that is a far more productive use of your time.

  7. “What’s the most idiotic of Arnold’s plan is that it CUTS taxes when we shouldn’t be cutting taxes. ”

    Actually, now is the time you cut taxes and go into deficit spending to stimulate the economy. Unfortunately California must have a “balanced budget” (you know, in the wacky way they “achieve” that). Therefore any relief must come from the federal government, who is not too keen on doing that.

    Therefore, the only way up is down. Painful spending cuts are the order of the day. Marginal members of society will lose and there will be no one to help them. Cut education, transit, welfare, Medical, whatever it takes. Crime will go up. Hipsters will be hunted in the streets for their ipods and in some cases Zunes. Just kidding no one is stupid enough to buy a Zune.

    After martial law is declared a new government will rise from the ashes and the slate will be wiped clean in order to rebuild a new California and stave off the zombie apocalypse. The currency will be bottle caps. Start stocking up now.

  8. “We’re essentially doubling down on a losing hand of auto dependence, social isolation, with no productive industry other than services and finance.”

    Actually, you don’t even need people for finance. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/01/the-daily-show-on-high-fr_n_306290.html

    When everybody is out of a job, the only productive citizens of the United States will be computers trading shares with each other until the end of time. Sometime before then they will become self-aware and destroy us. The only way we can avoid such a fate is to invest in PRT and program the transportation pods to fight the stock trading computer machines.

  9. Concerns about pensions aside, I was reading Raphael Sonenshine’s book on Los Angeles City government recently. He interviewed the guy in charge of paving LA’s surface streets (and this was prior to the fiscal crisis we’re in right now). The guy said that LA has way more asphalt than we can afford to re-pave and maintain, and that he’s always fighting a losing battle.

    We have a huge maintenance liability with surface streets to homes that suck up tax dollars and produce nothing but unmet financial obligations for productive parts of our society. Take Oakpark in Ventura as an example – an relatively affluent area where nothing is produced and their local tax base is reliant entirely on retail sales generated around highways exits and money they get just from the State just because they exist.

    What most people think after reading this sort of stuff is, “Well, we just need to dump even more money into this system we’ve got.”

    I read stuff like our massive maintenance liability to pace roads and I think, “Why continue to support a system that can’t pay for itself?”

    Suburbia, and much of Los Angeles, was built to improve the fortunes of those building and selling new homes as fast as possible, those making a quick buck on loan programs and federal largess and defense spending. Our manufacturing base is long gone. We’re a pass-through for the nation’s cheap crap parade – and we can’t afford to support this system anymore.

    I say, let’s get serious about reducing spending, and not by attacking the only people in the state with a decent job left. Let’s reduce our overhead. We can do this by closing freeways, reducing road widths for private cars and giving over surface streets to less abusive modes of travel.

    The imperative to spend less shouldn’t start by holding a knife to civil servants – it should start at the all-you-can drive buffet that is bankrupting our civilization.

  10. Man, times are tough. You know what though, we don’t have to roll over and let this state die. Every time you get on transit, you’re pumping that much more money into something good. California is my home. Almost always has been. As Michael Moore once said, (but “country” instead of “state”):

    I refuse to live in a state like this, and I’m not leaving.

  11. Spokker is on a f**king roll.

    I am laughing my ass off right now wishing I could eBay a drink from across the internets. Hat’s off to you good sir.

  12. “The guy said that LA has way more asphalt than we can afford to re-pave and maintain, and that he’s always fighting a losing battle.”

    Bingo. And this is what drivers in Los Angeles don’t get. When the report that we have the worst roads in the universe came out many commentators said, “Well of course we do! Look at how much money we are dumping into transit!” The assholes don’t realize that the road system is unsustainable.

  13. “I read stuff like our massive maintenance liability to pace roads and I think, “Why continue to support a system that can’t pay for itself?””

    And you know what the worst part is? The worst part?

    THE DRIVING PUBLIC ALL THINKS IT ACTUALLY PAYS FOR ITSELF.

    Every time an idiot motorist on a blog says, “Duh, roads and highways pay for themselves through gas taxes and registration fees” a highway lobbyist must be cumming somewhere. God, forget high speed rail. Highways has got to be one of the biggest scams to be perpetuated on America. If only highway boosters were honest about it, I wouldn’t be so angry. But they somehow convinced the motoring public that highways and roads pay for themselves while keeping tolls, fees and gas taxes artificially low or non-existent.

    Yeah, yeah, trucks can deliver our crap on freeways and ambulances can speed on roads to the aid of those in need. Joe Salaryman on the other hand can pedal to work once in a while. He can even put his little bike on the front of a bus! How neat! It’s not going to kill him.

  14. I would suggest that the California Highway Patrol, the Caltrans Sweeper Trains, and Browne’s favorite road service, the Metro Freeway Patrol Tow-trucks be immediately scaled back to levels consistant with the budget shortfall. That means cut them all now.

  15. I am a public employee.

    “The imperative to spend less shouldn’t start by holding a knife to civil servants – it should start at the all-you-can drive buffet that is bankrupting our civilization.”

    The case can be made based on quantitative analysis that pensions are going to destroy us. Denying this is dumber than denying global warming.

    The nice thing about roads is that we can follow spokker’s advice at ANY TIME in the future and get out from under the problem, by stopping the maintenance and use of roads. WE CAN NOT DO THE SAME FOR PENSIONS. WHOLE GENERATIONS ARE ON THE HOOK FOR unnecessary pensions that are maintained by knife point by the public employee unions. You can’t turn off pensions, because that would be illegal and immoral.

    If you want transit and good education in the future, now is the time to address pensions. We can have a fair system that compensates public employees fairly without giving into the unsustainable greed of the unions. CLick my link to help.

    Spooker ranted a bunch of knee jerk responses.
    Buses use roads. Trains are also “unsustainable” by the same definition. And how exactly are trains going to be less vulnerable to terrorist attacks? Also, do you know how many people fly back and forth from SF to LA each day? GIANT BS ALERT: The cost of the train ride for business commuters doesn’t matter.

    It is unethical to tell people that the HSRail fares will be based on cost recovery. Using your definition HSR is unsustainable. And do you even know how much the HSR is going to cost? With an east bay line we are talking $100 billion to construct. PLUS INTEREST.

    http://www.cagw.org/assets/reports/through-the-looking-glass-reports-and-issue-briefs/2008/high-speed-rail.pdf

    Even 50 billion could provide a lot of bus service.

  16. you know, no one at all is asking if CHSRA and their army of consultants actually have the institutional capacity to deliver a 700 mile, $42 billion project.

    I mean, they delivered that 2009 business plan update to the assembly hours before it was due, with NO time for public comment.

    I get nervous that CHSRA has the authority to issue $9 billion in bonds, when they only have 9 full time employees.

    And the acronym just plain sucks. (CHSRA? dear lord)

  17. I hate when people start demonizing people who don’t like High Speed Rail like their some sort of “denier” (like Robert Cruickshank at the High Speed Rail Blog does) or like they are some kind of carhead. Look, 47.4% of Californians voted against High Speed Rail. It’s as if the Bush voters in 2004 called all the Kerry voters idiots and welfare slobs who were denying the supremacy of the Bush tax cuts and overseas war agenda. Many people would have not voted for Bush if they iknew what they knew in 2006, and likewise many people would be happy to rescind the High Speed Rail bond should they be given the chance – probably a majority.

    The HSRA is a racket for the engineering and construction firms who helped buy into Proposition 1A. Parsons Brinckerhoff, Bechtel, CH2M Hill, URS, etc. – a who’s who of Big Construction. You would likely do a lot more to reduce greenhouse gases and emissions by spending 1% of the $10 billion on improving bicycling and pedestrian amenities, since at least there’s no global warming caused when that car is driven 2 miles to the park and ride or 10 miles to the HSR station.

  18. Right On! This ballot initiative Dana describes above is a great step! I’m all for it! Look for me at your local market talking to voters! Better yet, dear readers, come join me educating voters all over LA!

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