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.