State transportation spending declines over 30% while government employee retirement benefits increase 25%. It's time to reverse this pattern.
A new report released by nonprofit California Common Sense shows that
larger portions of the California state budget have increasingly
been going toward state employee salaries, retirement benefits, and
healthcare while state transportation spending has decreased a whopping
31% since FY 2007-2008. Ever
wonder why those potholes take so long to get fixed? Other state
services had similar cuts. Looks like services at the DMV won't improve
anytime soon nor will recently cut school bus service be making a
comeback through the near future.
When Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his proposed FY 2013-2014 budget, he
indicated that more money would be directed toward education, but the
report shows the opposite.
The state is projected to take in over $10 billion more in additional
revenue than from the 2007-08 fiscal year mainly due to the increased
taxes, but state funding for many government programs will actually be
lower due to increasing
costs of health care and employee benefits. To be fair, the governor is
credited for submitting a balanced budget and a special Legislative
session will take place to debate the rising health care costs.
Robust debate is welcome, but the state must address this serious
problematic spending trend head-on. According to the report, state
spending on health care is up 62%. Employee compensation, up 16%.
Employee retirement, up 25%. Debt
obligations, up 24%. The most shocking increase is unfunded employee
retirement benefits, up over 90% from $111.5 billion in FY 2007-08 to
$211.4 billion in FY 2013-14. Even more alarming, to fund these employee
transportation spending is cut and taxes have risen. We are seeing a
discouraging trend where the state government is spending less to serve
the people of California and more on state employees, paid for by
increased taxes. It's yet
another reason why The Transit Coalition continues to question
budget-related fare increases and object to transit cuts and tolls for
carpools to use a high occupancy lane.
Speaking of HOT lanes, LA Metro is
now permitting motorcycles to use the Metro ExpressLanes for free
and without mandatory transponders. Metro's move is smart since
motorcycles have long been considered an HOV for a variety of safety
reasons. With non-registered
motorcycles out of the congested general purpose lanes and into the HOT
lanes, the freeways will have fewer instances of motorcycle lane
splitting and will thus be safer to travel. Now, would OCTA and RCTC
consider the same idea for the 91
Express Lanes? What about the other HOV's?
In related news, Metro
opened the new I-10 HOT lanes last Saturday. The facility forms the
culmination of a $210 million project funded by the federal government
that also included the I-110 HOT lanes, which opened in November. Tolls
for using the entire
length of the lanes range from $4 to $7 depending on the time of day.
Metro expects to spend $7 to $10 million to operate the lanes while
gaining $18 to $20 million in revenue during the year-long
demonstration. LA Streetsblog
dissected one particular article that discusses the new lanes in a less-than-favorable light.