The funding delay is the result of the Pension Reform Act of 2013. Transit workers were included and unions don’t agree with that, so several California unions objected to federal transportation grants. That stalled the grants until the Department of Labor decides whether the Pension Reform Act infringes on a union’s right to collectively bargain.
About $1.6 billion in federal grants have been withheld from California transit districts ever since, and Santa Barbara MTD is expecting to cut service by 30 percent in January if the money doesn’t come back. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union Local 186 includes every driver, mechanic and utility worker of MTD.
The district is fighting for the $2.3 million owed from last year, before the pension reform was enacted, and hopes to get a favorable ruling on next year’s $4.8 million.
Brown wrote a letter urging the Department of Labor to release the transit grant money in May, but it clearly didn’t work.
The Department of Labor made its first decision Thursday against the Pension Reform Act and told the Sacramento Regional Transit District that it would not certify transit grants since provisions of the act “are incompatible with federal labor law,” Brown’s office said in a statement.
To keep federal transit grant money flowing, Brown is proposing legislation to temporarily exempt local agency transit workers from the Pension Reform Act. He is still preparing to go into litigation to fight for the pension reform laws in court, he said in a statement.
“Federal transit money creates jobs, and this legislation keeps those funds flowing while allowing the state to defend in court our landmark pension reforms,” he said.
Assembly Bill 1222 would also create a $26 million loan program to help transit operators at risk of losing grants, but with a total amount around $1.6 billion being held up right now, that money would cover less than 2 percent of the problem.
MTD expects the Department of Labor to certify the delayed grants if the legislation is passed.
UCSB’s Associated Students applauded Brown’s announcement. There are serious cuts proposed for lines going from Isla Vista to Santa Barbara, which are heavily used by college and university students.
“I’m relieved that politicians in Sacramento have decided not to let their fight with bureaucrats in Washington burden the lives of students and transit-dependent people all over the state,” said Alex Moore, Associated Students external vice president for local affairs.
Hundreds of residents have turned out for public forums discussing the potential bus service cuts, which would reduce some routes and eliminate others entirely.