Gov.’s Newest Transit Raid Receiving a Frosty Reception

1_21_10_gov.jpgSchwarzenegger at October’s Alt-Car Expo in Santa Monica. Photo: Automobile Blog

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
Resources Issues…

…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.

  • It’s really nice to, for once, not have to fight an overwhelming tide of majority opinion and have MOST people think that something is complete bullshit even if it means a LOWER tax.

  • Metro’s government relations person for state affairs Michael Turner told me last year the excuse lots of lawmakers gave for going along with the stealing of transit funds was it had no consequences. After the past year of fare hikes and service cuts that have gotten decent media play it appears saying that isn’t credible anymore. But of course as noted this is just the opening act of the drama, albeit at least the truth is finally out in the open.

  • Hey, you guys need a system for sharing California news intra-Streetsblog. This piece needs to show up on Streetsblog SF as well.

  • Erik G.

    The irony of this is that the application of a sales tax, which is percentage based, allows the state to capture a portion of the increase in the price of gasoline, which the fixed-rate-per-gallon state fuel tax cannot.

    The state fuel tax is not pegged to inflation.

    The state fuel tax has not been raised in how many years?

    The state fuel tax does not cover the cost of the asphalt-centered transportation system.

    The state fuel tax is greatly impacted downawards by the increased efficiency of modern motor vehicles, even though that is a state goal of both the state and federal governments

    The state fuel tax is not able to capture any contributions from the users of non-gasoline or non-Diesel powered vehicles.

  • skd

    Schwarzenegger is an idiot. Instead of raiding the transit funds, he should raise gasoline taxes and implement a special state tax on marijuana dispensaries and private/corporate jet flights and ownership (this would directly affect him since he uses a private jet to arrive and depart Santa Monica Airport weekly). The governator doesn’t seem to understand that mass transit and transportation projects provides jobs. His shorts-sighted polices will only exacerbate California’s ailing economy.

  • skd, the Governor isn’t the sole villain. The legislature has also played a large role in the robbery. The media only belatedly has started covering the impact of these budget steals, and even now is only doing a so-so job. And the screwed up structure of our tax code etc. is the fault of the voters enacting measures that are short sighted, etc. There is plenty of blame to spread around.

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Photo: Trinity County California Republican Party This morning when I saw the L.A. Times headline about new budget cuts announced by Governor Schwarzenegger, I wasn’t worried.  After all, I knew this time there wasn’t anything else he could do to damage transportation and transit.  How much more damage could be done after he abolished state […]