SO.CA.TA Wants Your Help Gathering Signatures to Get Transit Protections on the Ballot

1_15_10_schwarz.jpgHelp put our money where his mouth is.

Sick of transit funding being stolen by the state and want to do something about it? You can help gather signatures for placing on the November ballot the Local Taxpayer, Public Safety and Transportation Act. A packet of petitions can be requested via this online form. They will come in the snail mail with detailed instructions. The deadline to get petitions in for validation is mid-April. I have some and will in the coming weeks be gathering signatures on buses, trains and at transit nodes like Union Station.

MeanerMina in a previous post issued a call to arms for advocates:

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!

For more on the Governor’s plan to rob transit to fill the funding void in the state budget, check out these two articles from last week:

  • DJB

    “The fiscally irresponsible practice of borrowing local taxpayer and transportation funds makes our budget problems worse down the line because local government and transportation funds have to be repaid, with interest.”
    —–

    On the other hand, the state will end up borrowing money from somewhere anyway to balance its budget, since there is no supermajority (necessary because of Prop. 13) support to raise taxes, and there is no majority support to make significant spending cuts. (I could live with a cyclically balanced budget by the way, if we were inclined to actually pay down our debt during good years).

    I’m torn on this measure. I want to stop transit cuts, but I also want to solve the state’s permanent fiscal crisis, which is really the root of the problem. The measure seems to protect transit in the short run, but do nothing to attack the root of the problem (from my liberal perspective): insufficient state revenue.

    Isn’t this just more narrow, single-issue budgeting that skirts the real problem? “Screw the state, as long as transit’s okay”?

  • MU

    @DJB – You have a valid point that it is likely almost every area will have to see some cuts in order to deal with the budget. But the really odd thing with this proposal is that it is a net cut to tax collection. The end result of the proposed changes would be a drop of $.06 in tax per gallon of gas collected (at current prices). So he’s proposing to CUT taxes to fill a budget gap. Next, instead of the tax being a percentage, it will become a fixed amount. Since gas prices are widely assumed to be rising in the near and long term future, the state will miss out on increasing tax revenues as prices rise and future increases would be politically much more difficult.

    So this guts transit budgets, to give a small tax cut to drivers and give the government more flexibility in how it spends tax collections even though it will get less now and in the future. Seems more like an attempt to give the Gov the ability to say “I cut gas prices” that a serious attempt to deal with the budget.

  • OCWeekly has a great article about the night owl cuts in Orange County.

    “It’s the latest round in the systematic downsizing of Orange County’s transit infrastructure that has been going on for more than a year, and when it’s finished, it will leave the bus system between 20 percent and 28 percent smaller than it was at the beginning of 2008. The reductions mark the reversal of years of growth in Orange County bus service.

    By some accounts, night-owl service should have been killed years ago. System-wide, the average OCTA bus route returns 23 cents to OCTA for every dollar the agency spends on operations. On night-owl lines, though, less than 9 cents per dollar is recovered, even though the cost to operate is calculated as the same as during the daytime: about $85 per hour.

    That inefficiency led to a few internal discussions over the years about ending night-owl service, Leahy says. But it never seemed necessary. A strong economy led to sales-tax windfalls for most of the decade, which meant OCTA was flush with cash and could continue to expand the bus service. The number of revenue vehicle hours in the bus system—roughly, the number of hours the buses can carry passengers in a year—rose from 1.3 million in 1998 to more than 1.9 million in 2008 as new routes were drawn and frequency of service on heavily trafficked ones was beefed up.”

    When tax dollars were coming in, they spent, spent, spent on new routes and increased frequency. Now that tax dollars are down, service is being taken away. It’s a pretty logical concept.

    The alternative would be to *save* money in good times, not expand, so that you can spend to save service in bad times. Of course, if some transit agency CEO were to say, “I’m not going to expand service. We should be saving our funds for the next fiscal crisis.” he (OR SHE, GOTTA SUSTAIN MY LIBERAL CRED YOU KNOW) would be lambasted on this very blog.

  • This post should really have a link to information about the measure, for those few people who want to understand the proposal before they start gathering signatures:

    http://www.savelocalservices.com/node/20

    I wouldn’t be optimistic about this, because the most urgent work in California right now is to educate voters about how budgeting-by-initiative is wrecking the state. If anything is even more urgent than stopping transit cuts, it’s that.

    I’d be more optimistic about campaigns to raise local sources to compensate for the loss of state funding, as this has the added benefit of giving you more local control over your services.

    Just a thought.

  • I should have included links to the initiative (and addeneda) as 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

    Kind of wrote this in a rush, and I apologize for the omission.

    California Forward is working on reform of California’s budget process, if you want to help fix that I’d suggest contacting them:
    http://www.caforward.org

    It looks like OCTA will keep running its routes late in the evening (OCTA used to end service circa 10 p.m.), when ridershp is fairly good just not during the midnight to 4 a.m. period when use was almost nil. This is very good since I have seen many folks obviously getting off work using the bus with the service added after 10, so OCTA is trying to do the right thing while dealing with its budget meltdown…

  • In case anyone doesn’t understand exactly what we’re fighting here let me lay it out. Through out California, certain communities have done the right thing and taxed themselves for things their communities need such as police and fire protection, education and other important community programs. But because they were also responsible enough to spend carefully and not use more than they needed, the State just came along and took the money without any plan for how they were going to pay it back. So local communities that are fiscally responsible are being punished and those that are unwilling to pay their fair share or live up to responsible budgeting are being rewarded for their bad behavior.

    What the Governor and legislature did was as wrong as it can possibly be.

    http://www.savelocalservices.com/node/7

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