Commentary: Give Gas Tax to Transit

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, January 19, 2007

The challenge of global warming will require more than happy talk and hybrid cars. It will require a bigger investment in transit, too.

In his proposed budget, the governor showed no enthusiasm for that side of the global warming puzzle. In fact, he proposes to transfer more than a billion dollars that would normally go to transit -- to other programs. Because gas prices have gone so high, the sales tax on gas has spiked, and transit districts, which get a cut of that money, would receive more tax dollars than anticipated. The governor’s budget advisors think that windfall could be used in better places than transit.

But why? When gas prices soar, poor people are squeezed. For many, transit becomes the only option. Cutting transit means they have to wait an extra 15 to 45 minutes for the next bus or light rail car. It means no late night or weekend runs. The governor also shorted inter-city rail. The booming Capitol Corridor Sacramento to San Jose train route desperately needs more passenger cars to accommodate a crush of new riders, but there’s no money in the governor’s budget to buy them.

Not everyone who wants to fight global warming can afford a hybrid car, Governor. Some of us need just a seat -- on the bus, a light rail car, or the train.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.