Governor's new budget proposal signals interest in support for transit operations

Family on BART
Karl Nielsen

Friday's release of Gov. Gavin Newsom's updated 2023-24 budget proposal underscores the governor's interest in working with the Legislature to provide California transit agencies with operating support to avoid a fiscal cliff that threatens to harm service for years to come.

"The Administration welcomes discussion with the Legislature on potential near- and long-term solutions to support the viability of transit across the state," declares the governor's new budget plan, noting that while California transit agencies have benefited from large infusions of state and federal dollars, post-pandemic ridership trends and dwindling federal relief funds have created significant operating challenges for many of these agencies.

The so-called May Revision maintains a continued commitment to address transportation-related climate issues. As the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, the transportation sector must align project delivery with climate change solutions and the state must continue to move toward a multi-modal, zero-emission transportation future to reduce carbon emissions and improve health benefits, while supporting safety, equity, and economic growth.

The May Revise came a day after MTC joined dozens of organizations and agencies from across the state as signatories to a new letter urging legislators to approve new multi-year funding commitment to help transit agencies avoid insolvency. Addressed to Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins; Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon; Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Committee Chair Nancy Skinner; and Assembly Budget & Fiscal Review Committee Chair Phil Ting, the letter calls on the Legislature to stave off cuts to public transit service, asking “for your support to avert the fiscal cliff facing California’s transit agencies in order to prevent cuts, rebuild ridership, and put transit on a path to thrive. A robust and reliable transit system is necessary to achieve the state’s climate, clean air, mobility, equity, and economic recovery goals and provides tens of thousands of good paying union jobs.”

“Residents of all income levels depend on transit to access jobs and other destinations, offering a cleaner, healthier, more affordable travel alternative to congested freeways and roads that harm productivity and erode our overall quality of life,” the letter reads. “Cutting transit service would turn today’s transit riders into tomorrow’s freeway traffic, adding to household travel costs and exacerbating environmental injustices by virtue of increased vehicle pollution. Frontline workers and frontline communities — working people, renters, youth, seniors, low-income people, people of color, and people with disabilities — represent the core of current transit ridership and stand to lose most if California allows transit agencies to fall off the fiscal cliff.

"We cannot afford to lose transit in California," the letter states.

MTC and the other authors of the letter  — known as the Survive and Thrive Coalition — ask legislators to support the California Transit Association’s funding request and policy recommendations to provide $5.15 billion over five years to address the near-term operating deficits faced by transit agencies. These recommendations include additional appropriation of diesel sales tax revenue, and cap and trade discretionary funds as well as maintaining and expanding flexibility to convert transit capital funding to support transit operations.

This is the third time this year MTC has joined with business groups, labor organizations, environmental groups, transit advocates and others to urge the Legislature to include a multi-year commitment to transit operations in the next state budget.

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