Governor's $1.1 Billion in Proposed Transit Cuts Contradict State Goals to Improve Transit Infrastructure
Sacramento – At a special informational hearing today at 4pm on public transit funding in the state budget, transit agencies, environmentalists, transit riders, and others will testify before the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Transportation to emphasize the need for increased investment in public transit to meet California’s growing transportation needs.
Governor Schwarzenegger’s January budget proposal would redirect more than half of all state funding for public transit, just two months after Californians overwhelmingly voted in support of more transportation funding by passing Proposition 1B and less than one month after Governor Schwarzenegger signed California’s historic global warming bill--AB 32. In total, the Governor’s budget would redirect $1.1 billion in state public transit funds to other programs. His budget also proposes to permanently terminate an often sizable source of transit operations funds, known as the “spillover,” in years when gas prices rise faster than inflation.
Thirty organizations have signed on to an open letter to the legislature, urging them to reject the Governor’s proposed cuts to public transit. In addition, more than twenty organizations convened in Sacramento last Tuesday, March 21st, to participate in a lobby day with legislators about the need for adequate public transit funding.
“Cutting public transit would ignore the public’s clear frustration with growing traffic congestion and our desire to invest in more transportation options to meet our travel needs,” said Emily Rusch, Advocate for CALPIRG. “The Legislature must reject Governor’s Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts and fully fund public transit.”
“Investing in quality public transit must be an integral part of California's strategy to address global warming. 41% of our state's greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. And, as California becomes home to more people and as Californians drive more and farther, cleaner fuels and more efficient vehicles alone won't lead to a reduction from today's emissions levels. We have to make a commitment to funding quality, dependable public transit in order to achieve the momentous goals of AB 32,” said Carli Paine, Transportation Program Director for the Transportation and Land Use Coalition in Oakland.
“People of color and low-income people will be most hurt by the Governor’s proposal. They are least likely to own a car and most likely to be dependent on public transit as their only option to get to school, work, health care and other essential destinations. In the Bay Area alone, the proposed cut of $109 million in operating funds is equivalent to over 1 million hours in bus service. Losing this funding will have devastating impacts on the daily lives of working people, senior citizens and high school students who have no other transportation options,” said Juliet Ellis, Executive Director of Urban Habitat in Oakland.
“The Older Women's League joins the voices of those who are alarmed by the cuts in funding for public transit. How are we going to avoid the dependence on automobiles if we have no alternatives in this fast moving society? We must make public transit available and easy to use if it is to become a viable alternative for driving on freeways,” said Betty Perry, Public Policy Director for the Older Women's League of California.
“The misallocation of the spillover funds is like a giant game of ‘hide the salami’ from a starving lion. The governor's team continues to spin and misdirect these funds to prop up other worthy projects that have been traditionally paid from the general fund. Despite the governor's green proclamations, his budget team actions are completely disingenuous and will result in great harm to the transit using public who depend on healthy transit alternatives to get to work, school and health care,” said Bart Reed, Executive Director of The Transit Coalition in Los Angeles.
The Governor’s Proposed Budget:
- Would redirect $1.1 billion in public transit funds to other programs, namely school buses traditionally funded as part of the Department of Education’s budget, regional center transportation services for those with developmental disabilities traditionally funded by the California Health and Human Services Agency budget, and past bond debt service.
- Instead of using Proposition 1B bond funds to supplement funds for transit capital as voters intended, the Governor’s budget proposes to use $600 million from Prop 1B to replace $700 million in cuts for public transit capital such as buying or replacing new and clean fuel buses, shelters, transfer stations, light rail and rail equipment, and constructing extensions.
- The proposed cuts include $411 million in cuts to critical operating funds (known as the State Transit Assistance program) for the transit agencies--a70% decrease from state funding allocated last year.