Prop 22 wins; intended to protect state transportation funds

Lost in a lot of the election hub-bub is that Prop 22 won at the polls last night — at this hour it’s up by a 21 percentage point margin, according to the California Secretary of State.

Prop 22 is intended to tighten state law to protect the Legislature from raiding state transportation money to fix the chronically-ailing state budget. Courts in California have already ruled such raids are illegal, but Prop 22 proponents sought the measure anyway to try to thwart any future diversions and close loopholes.

The California Transit Assn., which represents many transit agencies in the state including Metro, was one of the proponents of the measure. The press release they issued last night is after the jump.

The press release from the CTA:

Prop 22 wins; billions in transportation funding secured!

Moments ago the Associated Press called it in our favor – Proposition 22, the Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act of 2010, was approved by California voters!

It was nearly two years ago that the California Transit Association first began to explore the feasibility of a statewide ballot initiative to protect transit funding. From early polling and focus groups, through our decision to partner with other groups in a broader initiative effort addressing a wide variety of local funds, our efforts culminated in tonight’s vote on Proposition 22.

We can now report that those efforts were rewarded by a resounding victory, with Prop 22 garnering the support of about 63 percent of the voters as of this writing. While that margin is expected to shrink somewhat once every last vote is tallied, our campaign consultants concur with the press – an incredible victory!

With this accomplishment, we have succeeded in constitutionally protecting more than $1.8 billion a year in state and local funding for transit, and prevented these funds from being raided, diverted or outright stolen as part of the state budget process. With nearly $3.5 billion having been raided over the past three years alone (and with state funding for transit operations at one point having been eliminated completely), this victory will allow us to begin the process of recovery from the epidemic of fare hikes, service cuts and job layoffs recently inflicted on transit providers and those they serve.

While Prop 22 does guarantee specific protections, the fact is that the state is still in the midst of a budget crisis. Therefore, transit funding will always be at some degree of risk. But with these newly-won protections, we see a much clearer path to assuring an annual State Transit Assistance (STA) program funding level far greater than the average annual STA allocation of the past ten years. Furthermore, the initiative’s passage provides us with significant strategic leverage to explore long-term ways to achieve an even higher-funded STA program than ever before. The measure also ensures a robust funding program for intercity passenger rail and other state and regional transit priorities.

Come 2011, our work on behalf of public transportation will thus begin anew. For now, however, let’s all take a moment to revel in this latest victory (coming on the heels of last year’s Supreme Court decision in our favor and the successful negotiations earlier this year to restore the STA program). I would also like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who supported this effort, through early resolutions supporting the research phase or later resolutions in support of the final initiative, through your personal time spent spreading the word about the importance of this measure, or through your personal or corporate contributions of time and money to help fund the campaign effort.

We also thank our partners at the League of California Cities, especially my Co-Chair on the campaign, League executive director Chris McKenzie, as well as the California Redevelopment Association, California Alliance for Jobs, California Building Trades Council, and countless other statewide and regional organizations that supported the measure.

Begun under the vision and leadership of the Association’s Executive Committee then chaired by Michael Burns (Santa Clara VTA), and carried across the goal line by current chair Doran Barnes (Foothill Transit) and his colleagues on the 2010-11 Executive Committee, this effort could not have matured to fruition without such excellent guidance from our volunteer leaders.

Regardless of the final vote tally, you are all to be commended.

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