Legislative & Budget Update: ATP & Transit Pass Bills Die, But New ATP Funding Proposed in Budget & Special Session Frameworks
August 24, 2016 1 Comment
As this year’s legislative session wraps up, we have a few updates to share, some good and some bad:
First, the bad:
- ATP non-infrastructure set-aside bill dies: Our most important bill this session has been AB 2796, which would create set-asides for non-infrastructure and planning within the ATP. The bill made it as far as the Senate Appropriations Committee but unfortunately was never taken up for a vote before the deadline. So the bill will not be moving forward. Because no vote was taken, we are unclear of the rationale for leaving the bill on suspense. The bill had been amended in the Senate Transportation Committee in June, to reduce the overall set-aside from 15% to 10% and lump in planning with non-infrastructure (originally, planning would receive 5% and non-infrastructure 10%). We are exploring other ways to create a set-aside, as well as reintroducing the bill in the next session, so stay tuned.
- Transit pass bill dies: AB 2222, which would create a statewide program providing free or discounted transit passes to K-12 and community college students, also failed to make it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill was stripped of its funding in an earlier committee (it would have come from the cap-and-trade program), so it faced an uphill battle to make it out of Appropriations without an identified funding source. Our partners at TransForm and Move LA have been working really hard on this bill and are exploring alternative ways to move the transit pass program forward, including reintroducing the bill next session. Move LA has written up a post-mortem on AB 2222 with additional information.
- Transportation Equity Package goes 0 for 4: These two bills were the last of our four Transportation Equity Package bills, so we went 0 for 4. But rest assured we will come back next legislative session with a new set of bills that will advance transportation equity in the state!
And now the good!
- Environmental Justice Bill Moves Forward: SB 1000, which would require cities to include environmental justice elements in their general plans, is still alive. The bill is undergoing amendments and has a few more hurdles to cross, however.
- Disadvantaged Communities Bill Also Moves Forward: AB 1550, which would increase the percentage of funding from the cap-and-trade program going to disadvantaged communities, is still alive. The current set-aside, set by SB 535, requires 10% of cap-and-trade investments go to projects located within disadvantaged communities and 25% to projects that benefit these communities. The new bill would increase the percentage required within from 10% to 25% and put a low-income provision into the requirement as well (the current disadvantaged communities definition in SB 535 is based on CalEnviroScreen) There have been some amendments to the set-asides, and negotiations are ongoing but the bill’s prospects look good.
- ATP Funding from Cap-and-Trade: Budgetwise, we are pleased to see that the latest version of the Senate’s proposed cap-and-trade spending plan (a.k.a. the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund Expenditure Plan), introduced as AB 1613, includes $5 million for the Active Transportation Program! While much lower than the Assembly’s proposed $100 million, this is the first time the Senate’s version includes ATP money. The Governor’s proposal still does not include any new ATP funding (instead proposing to create a Low Carbon Roads Program at $100 million that would fund active transportation projects), but both the Assembly and Governor should be releasing new cap-and-trade spending plans soon. With our partners in the Coalition for Active Transportation Leadership, we released a statement commending the Senate for including new ATP funding in the plan. We also released another statement with our partners in the Sustainable Communities for All Coalition urging the Assembly to augment the $5 million and bring it closer to their recommended $100 million funding amount. The Assembly is expected to release a revised spending plan soon, and the Governor will likely follow suit as well. But uncertainly still remains on cap-and-trade spending given recent auction results, a pending court decision and pending legislation (SB 32 and AB 197) to extend the state’s climate targets.
- Transportation Special Session Funding Package Could Double Size of ATP! As part of the Transportation Special Session, which has languished since being announced last fall, a new funding package has been announced that includes $80 million for the ATP, with an additional $70 million possible through Caltrans reform efficiencies! We are excited to see that an additional $150 million could be available for ATP each year. With $120 million per year currently available, this would effectively double the size of the ATP! The funding for this would come from a package of increases to the gas tax, vehicle registration fees, excise taxes, cap-and-trade funding and other miscellaneous sources. The timing of the special session, however, remains uncertain. It is not part of the regular legislative process and must wrap up by the end of the year. There is talk of a lame duck special session, after the November elections, but this deal could prove too good to be true. Nevertheless, the state will have to address transportation funding in some way, so the ideas from this package are sure to live on and talks will continue next year if no deal is struck. We are closely watching these discussions with our partners and working to strengthen the overall funding package, which includes some other positive things like more money for transit, but also some CEQA streamlining for roadway projects that could be detrimental to the safety of people walking and biking. (UPDATE 8/25: The package is now in print as an amendment to SBX1-1).
- California’s Landmark Climate Change Legislation Extended to 2030: Legislation to extend the State’s climate targets are moving to the Governor’s desk! SB 32 would require the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. It effectively extends AB 32 (2006), California’s landmark climate legislation which required the state to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. AB 197, a companion bill, would require additional legislative oversight. These bills are critically important to continue California’s work to address climate change, and we are excited to see them move forward and for California to continue to lead the nation on addressing climate change! Note that this legislation does not expressly authorize the cap-and-trade program, but it does remove some of the uncertainty for extending that program as well. The court case and auction results still hang over the program though.
The legislative session ends on August 31 and then the Governor has until September 30 to sign or veto bills. Stay tuned for another update in September as this year’s session comes to a close!