Governor's new budget makes transportation and environment priorities

Ryan Wiggins Headshot

Last week Governor Brown released his initial budget proposal including a plan to invest $850 million in cap-and-trade greenhouse gas auction proceeds.  

The proposal is drawing wide praise from environmental and social justice advocates for including strategies to reduce carbon pollution, support the most disadvantaged communities, and stoke green economic growth. 

Of the $850 million, $600 million would be dedicated to “sustainable communities and clean transportation.” This is an appropriate focus given the need to transform our transportation system and foster smart land use to meet both our 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and the far more ambitious goal of reducing emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

A good start, but program details will be shaped over coming year.

Of the transportation funding:

  • $250 million is for High Speed Rail’s (HSR) initial operating segment, with $50 million for other rail projects. TransForm is talking with the administration and will work with other groups to ensure any expenditures on HSR can meet legal requirements for carbon emission reductions.
  • $200 million for low-carbon transportation, including freight. While this will help clean the air, TransForm is also talking with groups to focus on programs like electric car-sharing in affordable housing developments that can save families money and reduce overall driving, not simply incentives for new electric vehicle purchases.
  • $100 million in local assistance funding to support regions in the implementation of Sustainable Communities Strategies, required under SB 375. According to the budget, this will prioritize disadvantaged communities and will reduce carbon emissions by increasing transit ridership, walking and bicycling, affordable housing near transit stations, preservation of agricultural land, and local planning to promote infill development and reduce vehicle travel. The Strategic Growth Council will coordinate the program, with programmatic work done by a host of agencies.
  • The expenditure plan also includes critical funding for weatherizing homes in low-income communities and creating parks and urban greening.

Investments in the Sustainable Communities program will provide Californians transportation choices that will reduce driving commute times by reducing sprawl, improve public health, and save money on both transportation and housing.

Unfortunately, the $100 million for investments in Sustainable Communities falls well short of the need to support effective regional efforts to meet SB 375 emission reduction goals. Transit agencies across the state were hit hard by the Great Recession and responded with major cuts to service leaving transit riders without the efficient, affordable, and frequent service they depend on. 

“Not funding expanded transit operations is a missed opportunity for the state to support regional efforts,” said Denny Zane, Executive Director of Move LA. “Investments in expanding transit service – especially in low-income communities – and providing discounted transit passes to students are cost-effective ways to reliably reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution, and provide critical access to employment and educational opportunities, and grow the economy.”

Next steps for TransForm, the Governor, and California

Over the next several months TransForm will work with its partners and allies in the Sustainable Communities for All Coalition and the Legislature and Governor to increase the funding for Sustainable Communities.

Transit operations, or at least transit passes and programs to speed bus transit to reduce operating costs and increase ridership, should be a priority. Similarly, State funding for affordable homes near transit has all but dried up, and should be a priority as identified in our fact sheet.

There are realistic and reasonable options. First, The Governor’s proposal only included repaying $100 million of the last year’s $500 million loan to the General Fund. The Legislature could move to repay all or some of the remaining $400 million and dedicate that to Sustainable Communities. Second, any additional cap-and-trade auction proceeds above and beyond the $850 million could be dedicated to Sustainable Communities.

The Governor’s proposal now shifts focus to the Legislature, which has the opportunity to encourage the Governor to provide a revised budget in May that invests more cap-and-trade proceeds in affordable, efficient, and clean transportation choices.   

This is the time to engage in this process and help us push for the best budget possible:

  • Register for our Transportation Choices Summit and optional Advocacy Day where you’ll join with advocates, concerned citizens, and experts from throughout the State to discuss the latest on cap-and-trade and other important transportation issues.
  • Contact Ryan Wiggins, Cap-and-Trade Campaign Manager, or Joshua Stark, State Policy Director to learn more about how you can be involved.

Even as we work out these details, we are thrilled that proceeds from greenhouse gas pollution permits can help fund a future for California that is more sustainable for all. Yet again, California is pointing the way for other states, the federal government, and other countries.

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About This Blog

TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.