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State Budget And SB 375: Incompatible Priorities

Sep 16, 2008

Only three weeks after insisting that California should encourage dense development near transit lines, state lawmakers have approved a budget that yanks funding from transit and redevelopment.

And that might be the nicest thing that anyone can say about the spending and revenue plan approved after last call on Monday night (Tuesday morning, actually).

All the budget really does is permit the state to pay its bills a while longer. "All we've done is roll the problem over to the next Legislature," State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) conceded.

Among the provisions in the budget is a shift of about $1 billion in the transit fund to the general fund, supposedly to pay for transportation programs. A second provision shifts about $350 million in redevelopment agency tax increment to schools and community colleges. (You can find out how much your local redevelopment agency will lose here.)

As best I can tell, these are not loans. The state is simply re-allocating the money. The shifts appear to be one-time acts.

Three weeks ago, state lawmakers approved SB 375 (Steinberg), a complex bill that insists developing dense, mixed-use communities with good public transit will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make California a better place. Yet public transit requires public money, especially in areas that have grown up without good transit infrastructure. And dense, mixed-use development near transit nearly always involves some level of redevelopment.

When SB 375 passed, more than a few people said the measure would be effective only if state spending decisions follow suit. Well, the first spending decisions have been made.

Business as usual.

Paul Shigley

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