Transit funding cuts planned

After touting transit as a means to reduce carbon emissions and praising agencies like BART for increasing service when a portion of Interstate 880 collapsed, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appears to be undermining support for area transit agencies — including those on the Peninsula — in his May budget proposal, transit experts said Wednesday.

The governor’s proposal would strip San Mateo County’s bus operator, SamTrans, of more than $5 million it received a year ago, leaving the agency struggling to fill a $10.5 million budget gap, SamTrans and Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg said. Caltrain would also lose $4.8 million in state gas tax money, leaving it with a $3.7 million deficit, Weinberg said.

Calling the May budget a “disappointment,” Weinberg said officials at the two agencies still hope that Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers will come to an agreement on a more “transit-friendly” budget before the beginning of the fiscal year July 1.

San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, a SamTrans board member, took the governor to task for proposing the cuts after hearing him talk in recent weeks of the need for improved transit and lower carbon emissions.

“In a certain sense [Gov. Schwarzenegger’s] talking out of both sides of his mouth,” Tissier said.

“If the governor’s proposal becomes law, I think we get stiffed twice over, because it takes scarce transit operating money [earmarked from the state fuel tax] but also reverses funding agreements from past years for capital projects,” Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman Randy Rentschler said.

The MTC plans to fight the governor’s proposal, which would shift approximately $145 million from state gas tax funds allocated for Bay Area transit agencies to fill the state’s $1.5 billion budget deficit, Rentschler said.

“We seem to be going in the wrong direction,” said San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill, who sits on both the SamTrans and Caltrain governing boards.

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s office disputed the claim of transit cuts, however, saying overall transit spending has increased by $321 million over 2006 to $1.6 billion, according to spokesman Aaron McLear.

While SamTrans and Caltrain both face steep budget gaps, both agencies had conservatively budgeted for the loss of funds, Weinberg said.

“Our budget [released earlier this month] did not anticipate any of this money, so when the May revision came out it fell in line without pessimistic outlook,” he said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com


What do you think about the governor’s plan?

Share your comments below.

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Dr. Grant Colfax and Mayor London Breed said new restrictions could come this week due to rising COVID-19 cases.<ins> (Examiner screenshot)</ins>
Breed: ‘More restrictive action’ needed to slow spread of COVID-19

San Francisco officials said Tuesday tougher restrictions will soon be imposed to… Continue reading

Many landlords fought the proposal requiring them to register properties, calling it an invasion of privacy. 
Kevin N. Hume/
S.F. Examiner
Housing inventory wins unanimous approval from supervisors

Legislation will require landlords to register properties, report vacancies and rents

Harlan Kelly, head of the SFPUC and husband to City Administrator Naomi Kelly (right), faces federal charges for allegedly trading inside information on a city contract in return for a paid family vacation. (Courtesy photo)
Harlan Kelly, head of SFPUC, charged with fraud in widening Nuru scandal

Kelly accused of engaging in corrupt partnership with permit expediter

Jeff Tumlin, director of transportation for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said the agency’s fiscal situation is “far worse” than the worse case scenarios projected back in April. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA prepares for massive potential layoffs as budget crisis continues to build

More than 1,200 full-time jobs on the line as agency struggles to close deficit

Mike McShane voices Scrooge in San Francisco Mime Troupe’s radio play “A Red Carol.” <ins>(Courtesy Karen Samski)</ins>
S.F. Mime Troupe tackles Dickens in ‘A Red Carol’

Radio play offers a new take on holiday classic

Most Read