Senator Wiener’s Statement on Public Transportation Funding In The Legislature’s Budget

June 12, 2023

SACRAMENTO – The Budget Agreement released by the Senate and Assembly last night provides significant additional funding for public transportation operations and restores cuts to transit capital projects. In response, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) issued the following statement:

“The Legislature’s budget agreement is a very positive first step toward securing the future of public transportation in California. Though significant work remains to avoid our transit systems’ fiscal cliff — which was created by the end of federal pandemic emergency aid before transit ridership fully recovered — this budget agreement solves a significant portion of transit systems’ collective operating deficit. It does so by allocating $1.1 billion in largely cap-and-trade funds over three years to public transportation operations — allowing those funds to be flexible and thus eligible for transit operations. This is a very meaningful step in tackling the fiscal cliff, and we estimate that, over the next three years, this flexible funding eliminates as much as half of the Bay Area’s transit fiscal cliff.

“The Legislature’s agreement also reverses the Governor’s proposed $2 billion cut to transit capital funds, which are absolutely essential for shoring up, improving, and expanding public transportation in California. The agreement then allows the entire fully restored $4 billion capital fund to be flexibly used for transit operations. It is my strong hope that public transportation agencies will be able to minimize their use of these transit capital funds for operations. Transit capital projects are critically important for our economy and climate goals. Moreover, due to Congress and President Biden enacting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law last year, we’re seeing the largest federal investment in infrastructure, including transit infrastructure, in generations. For every dollar California invests in transit infrastructure, it will receive up to $10 in federal matching funds. It would be short-sighted to cannibalize significant transit capital funds and forfeit billions in federal matching funds. 

“It is also my hope — this year and next year — that the Legislature and Governor will consider using a portion of California’s excess federal highway funds to fund transit operations, which the Biden Administration has stated is permissible. California is receiving more than $1 billion each year for the next five years in federal highway funds above and beyond what we anticipated. We should make at least a portion of these funds flexible to solve the remaining portion of the transit fiscal cliff.

“I’ll also continue to work with stakeholders in the Bay Area to identify regional self-help options to raise additional revenue for transit operations. We must exhaust every option to  preserve our public transportation systems — for our climate, for our economic recovery, and for the millions who rely on it each day. The Legislature’s budget agreement is a positive step in the right direction, and I’m grateful to Senate President Pro Tem Atkins, Speaker Rendon, and Budget Chairs Skinner and Ting for their work and support on this critically important issue.”