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  • Writer's pictureZack Deutsch-Gross

Governor's Budget Preserves Transit Funding Commitments, with Delays




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 10th, 2024

Media Contact: Zack Deutsch-Gross

415-637-0101 | zackdg@transformca.org

Newsom administration preserves last year’s transit funding commitments but with avoidable cuts to year-over-year transit and active transportation spending.


Sacramento, Calif.— Governor Gavin Newsom’s draft budget commits to maintaining $5.1 billion to avert transit service cuts and improve public transit but proposes deferring $1 billion of the funds for one year. The proposal also proposes a significant ($200 million) cut to the Active Transportation Program, in addition to other avoidable cuts in 2024-25 transit and active transportation investments.

State leaders have an opportunity to show that climate, safety, and equity truly are the state’s priorities in good or bad budget years. Upcoming negotiations among state leaders must focus on restoring the proposed Active Transportation Program cuts, minimizing transit spending delays, and growing year-over-year climate-friendly transportation investments.


“Last year’s budget provided transit with the significant funding support and flexibility to start California on a path to averting the fiscal cliff and restoring transit ridership,” says TransForm’s Policy Director Zack Deutsch-Gross. “State leaders have an opportunity to build on that critical progress this year, showing true climate leadership by maintaining transit spending levels—even in a challenging budget year.”


“We appreciate that the budget retains a commitment to transit,” said Laura Tolkoff, Interim Chief of Policy and Transportation Policy Director for SPUR. “The state has passed numerous laws that make it easier to build housing near frequent transit in order to make the state more affordable — the only way that works is if the state keeps its promises to transit.”


“Public transportation ridership is continuing to recover thanks to state funding to maintain service and improve rider experience. Maintaining this funding sustains the path to recover and improve transit while the state and regions work on long-term solutions for financial sustainability and ridership growth,” said Adina Levin, Advocacy Director, Seamless Bay Area.


Amidst broader budget headwinds, dedicated state and federal transportation funding makes it possible for the state to grow investments in climate-friendly transportation in California, even in the face of reduced general fund spending. Public transit investments create a multiplier effect on job creation, fostering economic vibrancy and providing opportunities for all to travel to jobs, medical appointments, schools, and more. High-quality bus and train service alongside safe, accessible walking and bike routes foster inclusive, vibrant communities with healthy, clean, and affordable ways for everyone to get around. By contrast, costly highway expansions undermine climate and equity priorities without reducing traffic congestion.


“Transportation is one sector where California need not trade off our climate goals with the need to balance the budget this year. We need to stop pouring the state’s money down the drain into wasteful and polluting highway expansion projects that undermine California’s climate goals,” said Zak Accuardi, Senior Transportation Advocate with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

According to the NRDC’s analysis of 10 of California’s largest transportation funding programs, more than 81% of available transportation funding goes to projects that either increase or fail to reduce climate pollution, traffic fatalities, and vehicle miles traveled. Growing the share of state investment in projects supporting walking, biking, and public transit is critical to achieving state climate goals.


“California’s transportation agencies and our state’s decision-makers have outlined strategies to solve our climate and mobility problems,” said Eli Lipmen, Executive Director of Move LA. “Only when our State’s budget priorities reflect these policies will we reach our climate targets on time; otherwise, we will face more calamitous climate impacts.”


Transportation agencies across the state are pursuing long-term reform and funding solutions so that public transit can thrive post-pandemic, and those plans depend on California not only maintaining but growing its existing transit and active transportation commitments. This proposed budget helps set the table for state leaders to do that by the time the budget is finalized in June.


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