State transit funds update

As you may have heard, the Legislature in the past few years has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars that were supposed to go to mass transit to other uses — namely balancing the state budget.

On behalf of local transit agencies — many of whom had to cut service as a result of the loss of the funds — the California Transit Assn. (CTA) sued the state and won. Here’s an update on that suit, from a recent email to staff from Metro CEO Art Leahy:

This week, the Sacramento Superior Court issued its Judgment in the California Transit Association (CTA) lawsuit regarding state transit funds. This is an additional step towards implementing our victory in the lawsuit. The Court specifically requires repayment to the Public Transportation Account of the funds diverted in 2007-2008 totaling nearly $1.2 billion, and, the Respondents, meaning the State, must report to the court by April 1, 2010 as to exactly how they will comply with this order. While this is a significant and important step, there are still many complications in implementing this decision given the state’s fiscal condition, amongst other factors. Metro staff is working very closely with the Association on this matter.

At the same time, the CTA is one of a number of groups pursuing a ballot initiative for next November to prevent state raids on local government and transportation funds in the future. Here’s a link to a press release issued today about that effort, which has now entered the signature gathering phase.