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Is a deal near for stable transit funding?

By dcuff
Thursday, February 25th, 2010 at 7:45 pm in Uncategorized.

California lawmakers may be close to a deal on providing more stable funding for public transit operators buffeted by state raids on transit funds.

 Not all transit officials, however, are sure the deal is good for public transit. They know, however, it would be better for them than what the governor proposed.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed last month a tax swap to eliminate the state sales tax on gasoline and diesel  – a source of money for bus and train operators – and raise the per-gallon excise tax on gasoline. Transit agencies can’t touch latter source, so the deal is a disaster for transit, officials say.

Furthermore, the Schwarzenegger plan also appears to be a way of circumventing court rulings directing the state to give back billions of dollars in gasoline sales tax money taken from transit the past three years. If there is no sales tax on gas and diesel, there’s no reason to give back what was taken in the past,  so the argument goes. 

 Bus and train operators see the guv’s plan is a prescription for pain, providing less resources to move people by bus and train, fight congestion and contain global warming gases

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in Assembly and Senate are more sympathetic. They propose measures that embrace the tax swap but go further to pump other money into public transit.

Under ABX8- 6 passed by the Assembly Tuesday night, public transit agencies would get back $400 million of the raided money to help them weather the recession.

The bill also would keep the sales tax on diesel – unlike the governor’s plan – and actually raise it from 4.75 percent to 6.5 percent, beginning in July 2011. That move would bring in more money each year  for public transit.

The Assembly bill also would give the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission the authority to go to voters in the region to seek a local per-gallon based gasoline fee to fund public transit and other measures to reduce greenhouse gases.

Joshua Shaw, executive director of the California Transit Association, told the BART board today that he believes legislators are going to end the sales tax on gasoline despite the hue and cry from the public transit industry.

He doesn’t like it. His group opposes it. But it’s probably going to happen, Shaw said.

Given that unpleasant likelihood, he suggested, it makes sense to encourage legislators to give public transit the best deal they can get.

 BART board member Lynette Sweet said she’s not keen about going along with a deal which provides “$400 million that is owed to us.”

BART staffers estimate BART could get $24 million of that $400 million to help get through another tough year.

BART General Manager Dororthy Dugger said the expected transit deal in Sacramento  – whatever it is – is a wild card that can affect whether the train system has to consider fare increases and service cuts in the next fiscal year. 







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