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State Democrats Unveil Green Economic Stimulus Plan for California

In response to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's efforts to gut environmental regulations for highway projects in California, Democratic leaders in the Legislature have unveiled their own green economic stimulus plan.

The legislation by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass does not identify specific projects but "will accelerate over $2 billion in voter-approved infrastructure bond money aimed directly at investments in the emerging green economy." They said it would create about 40,000 new jobs.

 "What we're presenting today is a way to do economic stimulus, a way to put Californians back to work, where we are not compromising environmental regulations," said Bass. 

Here are some highlights from the handout: 

    • Public Transit and Mobility: Help promote public transit and mobility by appropriating $800 million from Proposition 1B’s Public Transit Modernization, Improvement and Service Enhancement Account (PTMISEA) for ready-to-go capital projects.  Now is an ideal time to accelerate the expenditure of bond funds for public transit: ridership is at an all-time high in California, agencies have identified hundreds of ready-to-go projects, transit improves mobility without sacrificing air quality.  According to the California Transit Association (CTA), for every $1 billion invested in new transit capital projects, some 31,400 jobs are created and more than $3 billion in local economic activity is created.    
    • Street and Pothole Repair: Create jobs fixing existing streets and repairing potholes.  These funds would be used to fill potholes, resurface crumbling neighborhood streets, and improve bike and pedestrian facilities.
    • Green Urban Areas and Create Jobs: Implement urban tree planting projects that produce local community jobs and increase the livability of our communities.

Schwarzenegger, who claims to be a world leader fighting global warming but has consistently raided the public transit fund, recently sent a letter to President-elect Obama requesting federal stimulus money for a number of projects in California but it was loaded with a lot of rhetoric and few specifics.

Democrats also want to cut transit funds but their current proposal is not as draconian as Schwarzenegger's. They propose funding the State Transit Assistance (STA) fund at $150 million for the current fiscal year and on an ongoing basis while the governor wants to eliminate it entirely.

Steinberg and Bass said their legislation, if passed by both houses, would not direct money toward projects until the Legislature passes a budget.

“We appreciate that this plan shows
that legislative leaders have smartly identified public transit as a crucial
component of our transportation infrastructure.  We hope to see the same
sense of urgency when it comes to establishing a stable source of state funding
for day-to-day transit operations," said Jeff Wagner, the communictions director for the California Transit Association.

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