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Newsom’s proposed budget undermines transit and climate goals

Governor Newsom’s proposed budget grapples with a projected $22.5 billion state budget deficit by slashing funding for public transportation capital projects  (and other climate investments) while ignoring the fiscal cliff facing transit agency operating budgets, creating risks of service cuts.

In California’s multi-step budget process, the governor’s proposal is only the first salvo in a back-and-forth process that continues until the summer. The budget that is approved in the end often is significantly different from the governor’s proposal.  The legislature’s committees weigh in; the governor issues a revised proposal in May, and the legislature approves a budget document that requires the governor’s signature. 

The governor’s proposal is already getting pushback from Bay Area legislators including Senator Wiener.  Transportation committee hearings are expected in February in Sacramento focusing on the transit fiscal cliff.

Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin told reporters that the State would look to the federal government for help with operating funding.  This strategy seems dubious at best at a time when the new House Majority is flirting with US debt default.   Federal funding may be a stronger backstop for some other categories of climate funding that will be bolstered by Inflation Reduction Act funding that was approved late last year.  

Proposed cuts to transit and active transportation are detailed on page 51 of Newsom’s proposed budget.   As summarized by CalMatters, the cuts include 

A $2 billion cut (in intercity projects) from the $7.7 billion set aside for transit capital infrastructure;A $200 million cut to bicycle and pedestrian programs;Delaying $350 million in funding to improve rail crossing safety from 2023-24 to 2025-26.

The proposed cuts to Transit and Intercity Rail funding would impact BART’s Core Capacity program and VTA’s BART Silicon Valley project. The proposed safety cuts would impact projects for Caltrain corridor grade separations. 

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