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Governor Greenhouse

Court Orders California to Stop Robbing Transit (Updated)

11:20 AM PDT on July 1, 2009

Things may have gotten a little more difficult for Governor Schwarzengger, who is already wrestling with the titanic task of trying to pass a balanced budget for the fiscal year starting today, when a California court of appeals ruled that the state needs to stop taking funds dedicated by voters towards transit projects and use it to try and close the gaping funding hole.

The California Transit Association, that called the winter budget deal that zeroed out the state's operations assistance program "Armageddon," were the plaintiffs in the case that resulted in yesterday's big win for transit.  They celebrated and explained the court decision yesterday.

While the Court claims no authority to order repayment of fundsre-routed in past budget deals, the decision means that continueddiversion of voter-mandated transit funding is illegal going forward.And that means that approximately $1 billion earmarked for the GeneralFund as part of current negotiations must be restored to transit.

“The ruling clearly states that the rip-offs are illegal,” saidJoshua Shaw, Executive Director of the California Transit Associationand lead plaintiff in the suit that was originally filed over $1.19billion taken from the Public Transportation Account (PTA) as part ofthe 2007-08 budget agreement. “It says they’ve been illegal sincebefore 2007, and it says that the definition of mass transportationthat lawmakers have adopted since then to mask these diversions isillegal.”

Unsurprisingly, the Schwarzenegger Administration is already promising an appeal and is asking the appeals court to stay its decision pending the outcome.

Update: Dana Gabbard of So.CA.TA. sends the text of the decision.  It can be viewed here.

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