As Governor Schwarzenegger presses forward with his newest scheme to rob funds dedicated to transit, he’s receiving a frosty response from legislators and opinion makers that could spell doom for this plan to balance the budget.
After the State Supreme Court agreed with every other court to rule on the merits of a lawsuit brought by transit advocates against the Governor’s recent transit raids; the Governor proposed doing away with the portion of the state gas tax that goes towards transit permanently and replacing it with a new tax for the general fund. Knowing such a plan would face fierce opposition, the Governor tried a little "transportation user warfare" by having the new tax actually be five cents lower than the current one; forever burying any belief that the Governor cares at all about transit, transit riders or vehicle-created pollution.
The good news? It’s more than just transit advocates that are calling b.s. on the Governor’s plan.
The NRDC Switchboard reports on a Senate Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review that was flooded with opponents to the Governor’s scheme and found their complaints echoed by the legislators who would have to approve it. Long Beach Senator Alan Lowenthal is quoted as one of the leading voices against the plan:
It’s nice to go to a hearing in Sacramento every once in awhile and find
yourself in a cloud of nearly universal agreement. I was able to
experience that rare feeling earlier today when the Senate Committee on
Budget and Fiscal Review held its hearing on Transportation and
…Senator Alan Lowenthal was “appalled” by the proposal’s impact on
transit; Senator Mark Leno told of San Francisco’s continued transit
funding problems and wondered how this proposal would help things; and
Senator Joe Simitian wisely pointed out the likely ridership impacts of
further cuts and fare hikes, particularly on those “discretionary”
riders who will once again choose their cars, leading to more air
pollution and road congestion.
Meanwhile, an editorial is making the rounds of several Northern California newspapers pointing out that there’s more that would be loss in the Governor’s plan than just another round of transit riders v motorists. From the Contra Costa Times:
The revenue shift would
take hundreds of millions of dollars away from transit systems at a
time when they are in dire financial straits.
Even worse, it
would result in a 1.6 percent reduction of Prop. 98-mandated school
funding, or about $800 million, according to the Legislative Analyst’s
Office. What about the governor’s pledge not to once again decrease
funding for K-12 schools?
The Governor’s plan is far from a "Done Deal" or a "Dead Deal" at this point, but based on the early returns; it appears that transit riders and advocates are starting ahead in the game and this time they’re not alone in the fight.