Governor Jerry Brown released his preliminary budget proposal [PDF] today in Sacramento, missing the opportunity to articulate the connection between spending on roads and meeting the climate change goals he proposed Monday in his inaugural speech.
The draft budget holds no huge surprises for sustainable transportation advocates. It mostly follows last year’s budget for transportation spending. Brown made no move to change the allocations of cap-and-trade funds, which include a 25 percent for high-speed rail, with the rest of the expected $1 billion going to other projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The budget mentions the $350 million for last year’s Active Transportation Program, but makes no mention of increasing that amount.
At the press conference, Brown highlighted funding for road maintenance and repair, but failed to connect spending on roads with his stated goal of reducing fuel consumption by 50 percent over the next fifteen years. That goal won’t be easy to reach, and will take more than high-speed rail and electric cars.
“Getting people biking and walking is a critical part of that effort,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller of the National Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership. “Yet the Active Transportation Program is only one percent of the budget—less if you include cap-and-trade money,” which the governor’s office expects to add another $1 billion to next year’s budget.
“Yes, we have unfunded highway maintenance needs,” she added, “but as long as we keep building highways, we always will. We need to focus on shifting people to other modes.”
Instead Brown emphasizes high-speed rail as his main solution for reducing fuel consumption. His budget lists HSR among “healthy transportation alternatives,” alongside transit and walkable and bikable communities, that will receive half of cap-and-trade revenue.
But high-speed rail won’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions any time soon, and the amount of money allocated to it dwarfs the Active Transportation Program, which has the potential to increase the number of people who choose bikes and walking.