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Now That It’s Brown v Whitman, Let’s Talk Transportation

8:53 AM PDT on June 9, 2010

6_9_10_whitman_brown_politico.jpgImage: Politico

It's official. It's Jerry Brown versus Meg Whitman for Governor of California.
While we can expect a vigorous campaign between now and the election
in November, neither candidate has staked out solid ground on
transportation issues. For Brown, there's a track record going back
decades, but for Whitman all we know about her positions is what was
learned in a Republican primary where each candidate lurched as far to
the right as possible.

That being said,
here's what we know, and what we need to know about each candidate's
positions on transportation spending, transit funding, high speed rail,
raising the gas tax, the state's greenhouse gas law, offshore drilling
and freight movement.

Transportation Spending Plans - Whether or not the
state continues to build highways as though it has no negative impact
on California's poor air quality or whether the state finally decides to
"Fix-It-First" is possibly the most important issue in this election
that nobody is talking about. Think about it, the next Governor could
decide whether to move forward with Governor Schwarzenegger's idea to
double-deck the I-405 or could order Caltrans to abandon highway
projects until no bridges in the state are listed as "structurally

As you'll see with many of the issues we're looking at, during this
early stage neither candidate has gone into detail on this issue. Whitman has
made some statements
that the state needs to invest in its roads
and ports because both are crumbling. While that sounds as though she's
embracing the concept of fixing what's broken, she wouldn't be the
first politician to believe that "fixing crumbling infrastructure" means
building more roads.

During Brown's tenure as Governor in the 1970's, highway
expansion was somewhat de-emphasized
in favor of building transit
options. It remains to be seen whether that would continue to be his policy, whether it would
morph to a "Fix-It-First" policy or whether he develops a new
transportation plan.


Transit Funding -
Neither candidate has gone into detail about
restoring the state's transit operations funding. With a little tea-leaf
reading, however, we have some insight into what the candidates think. With Los
Angeles pushing "30/10," the level of operating funding help from the state
could be the most important transportation issue for the city that the
new governor has to deal with. After all, someone's going to have to
pay to keep those trains running.

Brown has a long record of supporting transit as governor and
mayor. For example, when he visited Los Angeles for the first
inauguration of Antonio Villaraigosa, he
that even though the mayor had serious plans to clean L.A.'s
air, "With respect to transportation and the environment, much of the
solution lies at the state and national levels. Here is where the funds
are to support public transit, clean fuels and road improvements we
desperately need." That doesn't sound like someone who is planning to
cut transit funding as governor. The
also points out that as Governor, Brown helped divert gas
tax funds to pay for transit improvements.

Some have speculated that Whitman would cut what little Sacramento
restored of its transit operating subsidy as part of her pledge to "cut
spending." However, she's never addressed the issue head on. As a
matter of fact, the only mention of the word "transit" on her website is
a vague
to devise a "transit plan for the future."

High Speed Rail - Robert Cruickshank, the author
of the California High Speed Rail Blog and long-time supporter of the bullet train project, writes
about how a change in administration
could derail the entire HSR
plan. So far, neither candidate has given a
definitive position on the current California High Speed Rail proposal.
History, however, has shown Brown to be a supporter of the concept
going back to his first stint in the State House.

Cruickshank writes:

As Attorney General, his office has been supportive ofthe project, and backed the CHSRA’s controversial position on the Transbay Terminal project studies last September.

Brown is still espousing a vision of “elegant density”for California’s future, as he did 30 years ago, a vision that wasnever really implemented after the Reaganite turn politics took in the1980s, but a vision that holds urban density and mass transit at itscore. There is every reason to believe Brown will continue to supportHSR today.

Meanwhile, Whitman hasn't addressed the project directly. A search
of her website reveals only a couple of mentions by supporters on
various message boards. Some speculate that Whitman hasn't had a chance
to form a full position on the project that balances her position that
the state needs better transit with her position on fiscal restraint. Others think she will just
play politics and use it as a wedge issue to peel
away some liberal voters in San Mateo County

The Gas Tax - Whitman is opposed to a state gas
tax increase. To the best of my knowledge, Brown hasn't stated a
preference yet. The only candidate who staked a position on increasing
the gas tax to pay for transportation was Tom Campbell, who lost to Whitman in the GOP Primary.

AB32 - Finally, an issue that's clear cut. Whitman wants
to delay efforts
to implement the state's landmark Climate Change
legislation, which would begin in 2012 with the goal of reducing the
state's emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Brown supports
and has fought legal efforts to repeal or delay the law.


Offshore Drilling
-  Despite the "Drill baby drill" mantra of some Republicans
nationwide, Whitman opposes
new drilling off California's coast
until "new technologies can be
completely proven to minimize the environmental impact of extracting oil
and gas reserves."  Admittedly, Whitman's
position on offshore drilling has changed
since the disaster in the

Meanwhile, Brown has "always" opposed
opening more of California's coast to oil drilling.

Freight Movement - Both candidates are on the
record as supporting electrifying the ports and freight rail, but
neither has rolled out an in-depth green ports plan. For Brown, we
again have a lengthy record, including his role in
helping to clean the air around the Port of Los Angeles
. For
Whitman, we have a statement
on her website
saying she supports clean ports, clean air, and
electrified freight movement.

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