Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New California Budget Cuts Transit--A Preview?

After many weeks of wrangling the California legislature has approved a FY 2008 budget.

The budget increases funding for education but cuts money for transit. Here is a excerpt from an article describing the budget deal:

The fiscal 2007-08 budget, considered by most a victory for conservatives because of its austerity, provides a record reserve of $3.5 billion, pays off $2.5 billion in bond debt early and largely satisfies the needs of all major state services, including education, public safety, and health and welfare programs.

It also transfers $1.3 billion from public transportation programs to general fund spending while delaying a cost-of-living increase for the disabled.

Here's more from the same article:

Public transportation also lost in the budget battle - $1.3 billion in gasoline tax money was siphoned away from transportation programs and projects and put into the general fund to help pay for schools, public health and other programs.

In the past, Bay Area leaders worried that the transfer could delay the seismic retrofit of BART's Transbay Tube, but officials said the impact is not clear.
Linton Johnson, spokesman for BART, said officials are still evaluating how the cut will affect the agency.

"At first blush, it does not look as devastating as we thought it might," he said. "We still need to crunch the numbers, but clearly this is not good news overall for public transportation."

Might California's transfer of money from transit to fund other priorities like education turn out to be a model for Illinois? Governor Blagojevich, after all, reportedly is a fan of Governor Schwarzenegger.


formersanfranciscan said...

He's a fan of Governor Blagojevich because they're both glory hounds.

In any case, I think the situation in California is different from that in Illinois. The CA statewide gas tax isn't statutorily a transit tax as the regional RTA sales tax is here. Also, the transfer was only of gas tax revenues recieved above previous year levels. There had been a windfall gain in gas tax revenue (due to higher gas prices). Anyways, the split of gas taxes between transit and roads is always a major political issue in California. Now its being raided for non-transportation spending. But this is just another chapter in that same book.

Justin said...

Also, I was under the impression that many CA transportation/transit agencies had been unable to spend their capital revenues quickly (as is often the case with capital spending, projects get delayed, take time to ramp up, etc.). The transit money might have been an easy target if it wasn't going to be spent that year.