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Transportation Budget Falls Short For Advancing Equitable, Healthy Communities

Transportation Budget Falls Short For Advancing Equitable, Healthy Communities

The Governor’s budget includes a $16.2 billion plan for the state’s transportation needs, with $3.2 billion in proposed new revenue. Unfortunately, the Governor’s transportation plan is business as usual, at the expense of public health and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The $3.2 billion in proposed new funding replicates the Governor’s plan introduced in August last year during the transportation special session. The majority of those funds will go towards repaving roads and expanding trade corridors, doing little to expand active transportation and advance transportation mode shift. Details of the proposal include:

  • No new dedicated funding for the Active Transportation Program.
  • Caltrans reform: Projected $100 million savings from improving efficiency and flexible positions. However, explained below, the budget creates a new program that duplicates many existing programs. Despite reform proposals, it is unclear how efficiency goals will actually be met.
  • Costs for drivers: To fund the new revenue, the Governor’s proposal includes much needed reforms to the way the state calculates its various fuel taxes and fees. However, it also includes a $65 fee for all vehicles and, separately, imposes a $10 increase on the vehicle license fee to curb anticipated shortfalls for the DMV. Taken in totality, the state estimates these changes will incur at least $90 in increased cost for drivers annually.

This year’s budget also includes changes to the Cap and Trade expenditure plan, the state’s chief funding source for programs reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The plan continues an ongoing $400 million appropriation for the Strategic Growth Council’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities grant program as well as continuous funding for transit operations and intercity rail programs. Under the cap and trade plan, two notable new programs have been proposed: the Low Carbon Roads Program and Transformational Climate Communities. Here they are in detail:

  • Low Carbon Road Program: This newly created program within Caltrans would allocate $100 million of climate funding toward complete streets, traffic synchronization, and other streets improvements. While this grant program is available for active transportation projects and includes a 50% minimum dedicated for disadvantaged communities, it seems to undermine the administration’s own goal for department efficiency and may open the door for more cap and trade funding to go towards roads.
  • Transformational Climate Communities (SGC): The budget includes $100 million for the Strategic Growth Council to administer the newly created Transformational Climate Communities Program to support local climate actions in the state’s top 5 percent of disadvantaged communities. Funding will support projects that integrate multiple, cross‑cutting approaches to reduce GHG emissions. This promising program has the potential to empower communities to develop climate strategies that integrate energy, transportation, active transportation, housing, urban greening, land use, water use efficiency, waste reduction, and other areas, while also increasing job training, economic, health, and environmental benefits.

Despite a record surplus and tax proposal to significantly increase state infrastructure spending, the Governor’s proposal misses a key opportunity to address climate change and advance transportation that supports equitable and health communities for all Californians. CPEHN will continue to monitor and weigh-in on the Governor’s proposed budget to ensure the Governor is adequately prioritizing the health of our most vulnerable communities.

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