Budget negotiations keep transportation active, other funds held hostage


Negotiators are discreet about what happens with the state budget, a version of which is due to be signed today by Governor Newsom. It is clear that between the Assembly, the Senate and the Governor, there remain major points of contention over the financing of transport.

In the current version of the finance bill – in effect at 4 p.m. this afternoon, that is to say – a number of program allocations have been edited to read that the new funds that will be allocated to them – most from the general fund – “must not be available for charges or expenses, unless additional legislation specifying how funds are to be allocated is enacted by October 10, 2021. If no legislation of this type is not enacted by October 10, 2021, all funds allocated to this item will flow back to the General Fund on October 11, 2021.

This shows in language the additional $ 500 million that the active transportation program was about to receive, for $ 198 million for a new climate adaptation program planned by the California Transportation Commission, for $ 20 million for administration and $ 2 billion for projects in transit and the Intercity Rail Capital Program, including its zero emission program, and $ 150 million for capital projects under the State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP ), among others.

It sounds like a threat – that if the governor and legislature can’t agree on the details and get additional budget bills signed by October, those programs will lose funding. In the case of the active transportation program, for example, an additional $ 500 million was expected from the budget surplus, and at the recent California Transportation Commission meeting, ATP staff presented an overview of how they would allocate this funding, if approved. But unless something changes tonight, the fate of that money will remain in the air, and with it any projects it might support.

It may be that this is an extreme negotiating tactic and these programs may be held hostage until negotiations over, say, the California High Speed ​​Rail program, can move forward. Funding for this program, while available and not from the general fund, continues to be deferred as lawmakers engage in politics behind closed doors. The Assembly pushed to postpone decisions on TGV funding entirely, even though CAHSRA and the governor both called for the release of voter-approved bond funds for the project.

Lawmakers may have found a way out of a tough deadline for the budget bill by using “secondary budget bills,” which add details and new allocations after the main bill is signed. The new language added to these additional transport budget items includes at least a new deadline so that the process cannot continue indefinitely. But it also means that the pressure to strike a deal is likely to spread over the summer and fall.

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