Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ratified last night the laws (ABX8 6 and ABX8 9) that eliminate the gas tax, which included stipulations on transit funding, and replace it with an excise tax. Despite the removal of the transit funding mechanisms in the gas tax, these bills ensure that transit operators have steady funding for operations by using the sales tax on diesel to replenish the State Transit Assistance Fund (STA).
The governor had declined to sign the transit operation funding bills that transit advocates and lawmakers crafted to match his own budget proposal. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom last week decried the news that the governor hadn't signed the bills as a "back-breaker" for Muni and said that by signing the bills, Schwarzenegger would have been a "transit hero, at least for the week, until there are other cuts the next week."
"We see this as making great progress toward establishing stable and reliable transit operating funding," said California Transit Association (CTA) Spokesperson Jeff Wagner. "While it eliminates sources of funding that transit should have been getting, it will create a source of funding that will provide transit with far more than it has been getting, on average."
According to the CTA, the laws signed by Schwarzenegger will establish a baseline of $350 million each year for transit operations starting in 2012, with allocations projected to reach $400 million in 2016-17 and $500 million in 2020-21. Compare that with the average annual STA allocation of $258.5 million over the last five years and $189.9 million over the last ten years and operators could see light at the end of a long tunnel of state transit raids.
In San Francisco, the MTA would receive $36 million both this fiscal year and next -- not enough to fix the projected deficit of $50 million next year, but certainly a welcome shot in the arm. MTA staff and the agency's Board are still evaluating the impact of the windfall on the current budget year, including whether to use the funds to partially or fully stave off planned 10 percent service cuts.Read more...