While lawmakers are celebrating the pending passage of the delayed California budget, local transportation authorities are looking to mitigate more than $1 billion in cuts.
The May budget revision by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut $1.26 billion from state transportation agencies, including Muni and BART. Commuters will likely see fewer buses and trains running on local routes and delays on capital improvementprojects.
“The final budget sent to the governor relies heavily on diverting transportation funds away from the agencies that are supposed to use those dollars to serve residents,” said Joshua Shaw, executive director of the California Transit Association.
The funds were intended to augment the money already guaranteed to state agencies, to fund capital projects and other improvements. They were diverted into the general fund for educational uses including home-to-school busing for school children.
In total, $75 million was taken from Bay Area transportation providers, $20 million of which would have been held by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to give out to its member agencies.
Representatives for Muni — which received the largest cut of almost $18 million — said they would not comment until the budget was formally signed into law.
BART is losing at least $13.78 million, funding that officials have said would be used for infrastructure improvements and earthquake retrofitting for the Transbay Tube.
Half of the $1.3 billion in transit cuts from the budget was money from the State Transportation Improvement Program coffers, collected as tax from the sale of gasoline and earmarked for highway improvements and capital projects.
The other half of the cut are “spillover” funds collected whenever the increase in gasoline prices outpaces the economic growth of the state.
The state has approximately $800 million in spillover funds, according to MTC Public Affairs Director Randy Rentschler.