Thursday, June 22, 2017

California, New York state legislation looks to bolster transit funding

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Two pieces of legislation, one introduced in California and the other in New York, aim to support transit funding for Caltrain and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) cites delays and historic failures on the MTA system as the reason for introducing his legislation, "Better Trains, Better Cities," modeled after the "Safe Streets, Safe City," program that resulted in reduced crime rates in the 1990s.

Sen. Gianaris' bill would establish an emergency manager to oversee the maintenance and operation of MTA trains and create a temporary, dedicated revenue stream to fund urgent repairs. This funding would be created by a temporary three-year surcharge on personal income taxes for those in the MTA region earning more than $1 million annually, as well as on New York City hotel/motel taxes. The surcharge would increase for those earning between $5 million and $10 million, as well as those earning more than $10 million. Sen. Gianaris estimates the two surcharges will raise more than $2 billion annually, which would be dedicated exclusively to maintaining and upgrading the MTA system at the discretion of the emergency manager.

Across the country, a group of California state legislators, led by State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), introduced legislation that would authorize the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which oversees Caltrain, to put a one-eighth-cent sales tax measure before the voters of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to fund the rail service's capital and operating costs.

Sen. Hill says Senate Bill 797 lays the foundation to end fluctuating voluntary contributions with dedicated funding, but explains that several conditions would have to be met before such a measure is put on the ballot in the three counties, including:

  • A two-thirds vote of approval by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board
  • A majority vote of approval by the boards of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Mateo County Transit District and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
  • A vote of approval at the threshold necessary for a sales tax measure from the boards of supervisors for San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties

"Our region is an economic powerhouse for our state, but its continued growth is jeopardized if our residents cannot get back and forth to work, school and their families because our main transportation corridor cannot accommodate them," said Sen. Hill. "SB 797 would enable Caltrain, which is now operating at 125 percent capacity, to meet demands for increased service while easing traffic along the Highway 101 corridor."

 

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