Governor cuts $1.3B from transit budget

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger withdrew $1.3 billion from state transportation agencies Monday, including $60 million that BART officials say could threaten earthquake retrofitting.

“We’re not pleased. A lot of what we had planned for the next year was predicated on that budget not being cut,” BART board President Lynette Sweet said of the governor’s revised budget, released Monday. “We really thought that the Maze meltdown would have proven us to the governor.”

In the aftermath of the MacArthur Maze collapse on April 29 and the commuting problems that resulted, BART has been carrying 10,000 to 15,000 more riders daily, following a record 375,200 riders the day after the collapse.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson said the agency was planning to use state funds for infrastructure improvements and the Transbay Tube’s earthquake retrofitting.

“Every delay puts us closer to the next earthquake. We can’t afford to let it get delayed, it’s so critical,” he said.

Johnson said Muni was hit proportionally harder by the May revision. The San Francisco bus and rail system lost approximately $6 million in the revised budget.

Sweet said BART will not let the tube project be delayed, but officials will need to “duct-tape funding together,” to fund the $1.3 billion project. The majority of the project is funded through a $980 million bond allocation.

BART was expecting approximately $21 million in state funds set aside to compensate transportation agencies for rising gasoline prices. Instead of funding new transit police officers, increased trains and connector buses under the governor’s proposal, the money will instead be used for home-to-school transportation for school children.

The governor’s revised budget proposes roughly $2.6 billion in transit funds, nearly twice as much as last year’s $1.4 billion proposal, according to the state Department of Finance.

But the 2006-07 budget was bolstered by nearly $624 million for public transit agencies around the state, a product of the state’s repaying loans it took out from transit funds to help solve budget problems in previous years, said H.D. Palmer, the deputy director of the state Department of Finance.

The state could not continue to finance agencies based on last year’s funding level, Palmer said.

“It doesn’t seem reasonable to us to expect a one-time revenue spike to represent permanent new revenues for general purposes,” Palmer said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said Monday that he was combing through the revised state budget and would have details today. He said the reduction for Muni “was not positive news and puts a potential strain on our budget and maintains why we need to be prudent and not exuberant about our spending.”

One transporation agency — the California High Speed Rail Authority — actually got half a million more in funding in the revision, but the $1.7 million allotted was still well below the $103 million requested by the agency to help it link California through a series of high-speed trains.

jgoldman@examiner.com

Staff Writer Dave Smith contributed to this report.


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