Casual Friday it was not at the State Capitol on January 9, when reporters, advisors, policymakers, and agency leaders put on their best as they gathered in Sacramento to hear Governor Brown release California’s budget for 2015-2016.
With this budget, the governor set a positive tone for our state. Most importantly, he began to address some of California's most pressing issues around affordability and sustainability, and demonstrated that our important climate program is moving forward.
California continues to be a leader in addressing the climate crisis at a pivotal moment, and the nation and world are watching.
What makes our state’s approach unique is our parallel commitment to improving peoples' quality of life – a strategy that can be replicated globally with benefits for all. This budget offers hope that we can solve our climate problems, and that solving them requires lifting up our most vulnerable communities.
For the first time, money from the production of fossil fuels is flowing from the state's cap-and-trade program, and the lion’s share of these revenues is being invested where Californians need it most: affordable homes for families of all incomes and great public transportation.
Now that oil companies must contribute to the state’s cap-and-trade fund (like other polluting companies have done for years), Californians get more funding for better public transportation, affordable homes, and a healthier, less polluted state. With oil companies paying into cap-and-trade, we have the potential to expand people’s options for how they can get around and where they live, so they don’t have to rely on a car.
Last year, Governor Brown and the Legislature directed 35% of the total funds collected by the State from cap-and-trade to be used for bus and rail transit projects and operations, and affordable housing. This year, the Governor’s January budget conservatively predicted $1 billion – which means that the State is poised to invest $350 million in one year to help provide real transportation and housing choices for all Californians.
These investments can save families up to hundreds of dollars a year on transportation and housing! We also share the benefit of breathing cleaner air with less car pollution. It’s a win-win for everyone who drives, takes transit, lives, walks, bikes, and wants to create a more sustainable California.
Not the perfect solution, but moving in the right direction.
As Streetsblog points out, this budget is not the perfect solution for all of our state’s needs. But it does serve as a promising note that California and our transportation agencies are moving in the same direction on what needs to be done to address the needs of our diverse and growing state.
For example, in a conference later that day, California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) Secretary Brian Kelly noted that the Governor also called for a collective solution to address the issues of California’s deteriorating road, highway, and bridge conditions. But in a shift from the agency’s past focus on expanding and building, Secretary Kelly made clear that the priority moving forward will be “fixing it first” - making improvements to existing infrastructure the first solution. This signals a continuing and positive shift in thinking from our State’s leaders.
Like our work on cap-and-trade, we at TransForm look forward to working with the Governor, CalSTA, Caltrans and others in helping set a direction for California’s transportation network that will enable us to reach our climate goals in ways that provide real benefits for all Californians.
As 2015 unfolds, we will continue to work with our partners to make sure California’s budget, policies, and funding benefit the communities who need it most.
Learn more about the Sustainable Communities for All Coalition - a coalition of advocacy organizations and nonprofits throughout California working together to ensure that our state's cap-and-trade program benefits our most vulnerable populations.