Last week the Governor released his preliminary budget for 2014 that included a proposal to invest $850 in cap-and-trade auction proceeds in transportation, energy, and natural resource projects. While the proposal overall is a strong first effort to craft an investment strategy to reduce greenhouse gases and benefit Californians there is considerable work to be done. Overall $600 million of the total would go to transportation projects:
- $100 million in Sustainable Communities including public transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects, housing, and conservation
- $200 million in clean transportation including rebates and subsidies for the purchase of low and zero emissions cars, heavy-duty vehicles, and buses
- $250 million for high-speed rail
- $50 million for intercity rail modernization
Despite $600 million going for transportation only $100 million would go into the Sustainable Communities pot to invest in expanding transit, increasing walking and biking, and building affordable homes near transit. This is far less support than is needed to support regional efforts to achieve SB 375 goals and provide real transportation and housing choices for communities.
This amount can be increased by repaying the remaining $400 million in cap-and-trade auction proceeds that was loaned to the General Fund last year or dedicating any additional proceeds from this year’s cap-and-trade auctions that are in excess of the $850 million included in the budget proposal.
Nevertheless, Brown continues to receive consternation regarding his decision to set aside $250 million for HSR. The $68-billion project is encountering opposition from environmental groups that say the benefits of the train would not come until much, much later. Environmentalists would prefer for these monies to go toward projects with more immediate benefits. The money would provide short-term funding, but does not address financing in the longer term. While not lost on this particular challenge, the Los Angeles Times believes that Brown must continue to strengthen the project’s viability, of which setting aside part of the cap-and-trade revenues is just a step in the right direction.
The Brown budget also provides a major fiduciary boost to map out earthquake faults across the state, an initiative that has languished over the past two decades. The lack of accurate maps is partly responsible for what has transpired over two transit-oriented developments in Hollywood, where city officials questioned whether or not there are active faults near or even below these projects. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti is also calling for new initiatives that would strengthen private buildings and infrastructure against large earthquakes.