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Governor Schwarzenegger Finds Another Way to Rob Transit

5_15_09_Ahnold.jpgPhoto: Trinity County California Republican Party
This morning when I saw the L.A. Times [1] 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 hurt transportation and transit.  How much more damage could be done after he abolished state subsidies to transit in his most recent round of budget cuts?

According to the California Transit Association, the governor wasn't finished.  An unexpected budget surplus created a lifeline for transit, and Schwarzenegger was there with the scissors to cut it. The revised budget proposal diverts another $336 million in transit-dedicated "spillover" revenue to instead cover transit bond debt service, which is by law a General Fund obligation.

Since the last time the state created estimates on gas tax revenue this winter, higher than expected revenue from the state's gas tax actually produced a surplus of several hundred million dollars. During the 2007 budget compromises, Schwarzenegger agreed that any spillover would be split 50-50 between the General Fund and the Public Transportation Account.  The P.T.A. can be used to fund either capital projects or to restore some of the state's now-missing operating funds.

However, yesterday Schwarzenegger ignored the agreement when he announced that the surplus is going to pay off bond debt and all of the $336 million was going to the general fund anyway before this budget maneuver.  Given the contempt the jet-setting Governor seems to have for public transit, it's hardly a surprise that he could "forget" an agreement reached two years ago, nor that he could find a new way to rob transit agencies of funds they've been promised for years.  According to the C.T.A., the state has diverted over $5 billion in transit funds over the last decade, $3 billion in the last two years alone.

"It's just more of the same from a governor whose disdain for public transit has by now been well-established," said a beleaguered Joshua W. Shaw, Executive Director of the California Transit Association. "Just when you think there's nothing left to take, he finds a way to dig the hole even deeper."