Assembly Members Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) announced Wednesday they have introduced emergency legislation (AB 1222) to prevent the federal decertification of local transit authorities across the state that would jeopardize billions of dollars in federal transit grants resulting in massive project termination and thousands of job losses.
“The impact of the ruling by the federal government is an immediate and serious threat to billions of dollars in crucial project funding and thousands of jobs,” said Bloom. “A failure to resolve this immediately would be irresponsible, irreversible and strike at the heart of our economic recovery.”
“AB 1222 will ensure that capital and operating grants will continue to fund critical projects by creating a pathway to resolve current disputes between state and federal law,” said Dickinson. “Importantly, this bill will help keep workers on the job and the light rail extension to Consumes River College on track,” he added.
In August, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) informed California that absent an immediate fix, federal grants to local transit agencies would be withheld because the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act (PEPRA) passed last year violates Section 13(c) of the Federal Transit Act defining transit worker collective bargaining rights. Absent an immediate legislative solution, California would lose $1.6 billion in federal funds in 2013 and likely another $1.6 billion in 2014.
For the Los Angeles region, nearly $3.5 billion dollars are at stake when federal funding is combined with other project funds. If unresolved, the Downtown Regional Connector and Purple Subway Line Extension projects as well as other related local transit improvements, maintenance, and operations would be placed on indefinite hold. Additionally, more than 46,000 local jobs are at risk.
The legislation would provide a one year exemption for transit employees from PEPRA and preserves the state’s ability to fight for the pension reform law in court. If the courts determine that PEPRA is in compliance with the Federal Transit Act, then the one year exemption will sunset. However, if the courts determine that PEPRA is not in compliance, the exemption will be permanent. The legislation also creates a $26 million state loan program to assist transit operators that are at risk of losing federal transit grants.
“These projects are crucial to our regional efforts to reduce traffic congestion and any delay whatsoever will have significant immediate and long-term consequences for the many people who rely on transit,” added Bloom.