The Association’s Year Ahead

Budget negotiations, sponsored bills, Task Force activities, and annual conferences make for a busy 2024. Learn when and how to make your voice heard. 

By Arianna Smith 
Managing Editor 
Transit California 

Last year, the Association’s continued efforts to grow our industry’s policy profile and strengthen our connections amongst local, state, and federal decisionmakers paid off for our membership organizations. Together, we secured important budget and legislative victories. This year, the Association is in place to build on last year’s successes, but membership engagement in ongoing and emerging policy issues is essential. Here’s what’s at stake in 2024.

Ongoing Budget Negotiations

As required by the state’s constitution, the Governor released his proposed balanced budget on January 10, 2024. The January budget responds to a projected budget deficit of nearly $38 billion by proposing cuts to several state initiatives and programs as well as a series of delays to multiyear funding commitments. Importantly, the January budget upholds the state’s commitment to provide the $5.1 billion in one-time funding to transit agencies secured by the Association in last year’s budget, but extends the timeline for the full appropriation of this funding. 

“Thanks to the record reserves we have built up and a commitment to fiscal discipline over the years, our state is in a strong position to close this shortfall while protecting key priorities and programs that millions of Californians rely on. This balanced budget plan keeps California on firm economic footing while continuing our work to tackle homelessness, keep communities safe, expand access to high-quality education, overhaul behavioral health care and fight climate change,” said Governor Newsom of his proposed budget.

When the initial budget was released, Executive Director Michael Pimentel released a statement on behalf of the Association, saying, “In the face of a $37.9 billion funding shortfall, Governor Newsom’s budget proposal introduced today upholds the state’s commitment to provide $5.1 billion in critical funding to California transit agencies necessary to avoid devastating service cuts and advance major transportation and rail capital projects that benefit transit-reliant communities, riders, workers, and families across our state.

“In an especially tough budget year, we applaud Governor Newsom for recognizing the importance of public transportation to everyday Californians and the role our agencies play in expanding access to jobs and opportunity, improving air quality, and combatting climate change. This funding not only keeps California moving, but will significantly help advance the state’s landmark environmental, public health, and equity goals.”

The $5.1 billion for transit agencies includes $4 billion for the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, and $1.1 billion for the Zero Emission Transit Capital Program.

Between February and May, California’s Senate and Assembly Budget Subcommittees will consider the Governor’s January budget, as well as the Legislature’s own budget priorities through subcommittee hearings. By May 14, the Governor’s Administration will adjust the state’s projected revenues and expenditures and will release an update to the January budget known as the May Revise.

The Association’s Advocacy Team is tracking these subcommittee hearings and will be participating in them as they begin to cover budget line items impacting public transit. In the weeks ahead, the Association’s Advocacy Team will provide guidance and talking points for member agencies whose expert voices will be essential to the budget conversation in the coming months. As budget negotiations continue, the Association will proactively work to protect existing transit funding, and will pursue, as opportunities arise, additional dedicated formula funding for transit and rail agency operations and resources to rebuild public transportation ridership.

2024 State Legislative Program and Upcoming Sponsored Legislative Package

Three core responsibilities guide the Association’s 2024 State Legislative Program:

  1. To protect existing transit operations and capital funds;
  2. To build support for and secure new sources of funding for operations and capital projects; and
  3. To ensure the passage of legislation and regulations that support transit while defeating those that don’t, particularly those that create new unfunded mandates on transit agencies.

With this guidance, the Association's Advocacy Team is working to advance sponsored legislation to address priority topics. For Association-sponsored legislation, the Association develops much of the initial bill language, works closely with the author and stakeholders on negotiating amendments, generates support for the bill from both legislators and stakeholders, and addresses concerns and opposition.

The Association’s first introduced sponsored bill of the year is Assembly Bill 1904, authored by Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego); the measure would improve traffic safety and address traffic congestion by authorizing all transit agencies in the state to equip their buses with yield right-of-way signs. Current law only allows the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District and the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority to do so. The measure would also update the law’s signage construction and visibility requirements.

In the weeks ahead, we expect the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee Chair, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), to introduce sponsored legislation that will make policy changes and incorporate best practices to protect transit workers from assault and battery. The bill language is being informed by the work of the Association’s Transit Operator and Rider Safety Subcommittee and through engagement with transit labor. 

Legislative discussions regarding proposals to consolidate transit agencies are expected to continue in 2024, and the Association will be engaged in these discussions with deference to and guidance from the Bay Area transit agency members. The Association maintains that consolidation discussions in the Legislature are premature at this time given the recent establishment of the Transit Transformation Task Force, which will produce a report of recommendations to address the long-term operational needs of California transit agencies.

Transit California will explore the Association’s complete sponsored bill package and legislative priorities, as well as how membership agencies can show support, in a future issue. 

2024 Federal Legislative Program

The Association’s Federal Legislation Program is guided by the same core responsibilities of protecting existing transit funding, seeking new funding sources, and engaging policymakers on transit-related legislation.

At the federal level in 2024, this means that the Association will continue to focus on maintaining existing federal funding to California transit agencies through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.  The Association will respond to IIJA-related federal rulemakings and notices, and it will work to ensure that membership will \be eligible to apply for and receive announced discretionary grant awards.

Association advocacy leadership is also continuing to monitor ongoing litigation regarding the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA) and will engage with the Biden Administration and Congress when appropriate to ensure that funding to California agencies remains accessible and unimpeded.

Association members will recall that, in 2023, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) filed an appeal of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California’s 2022 ruling which permanently barred USDOL from relying on the implementation of PEPRA to deny certification of federal transit grants owed to California transit agencies. The appeal is still pending before the United States Appellate Court for the Ninth Circuit. 

The Association will bring the message of our federal priorities to Washington, D.C. in September, when we host our 2024 Federal Lobby Day. 

View the full 2024 Federal Legislative Program.

Transit Transformation Task Force

In December 2023, Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin of the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) appointed 25 members to the state’s Transit Transformation Task Force established in the 2023-24 state budget.  

The Task Force was convened to develop long-term policy recommendations for increasing transit ridership, improving rider experience, addressing operations needs, and reforming the Transportation Development Act. CalSTA will consult with the Task Force and will present a report to the Legislature in 2025.

“Public transportation is essential to achieving our state’s world-leading climate and equity goals but is facing an existential crossroads – not just in California but throughout the country,” said Secretary Omishakin.“I look forward to partnering with task force members on ways to put our state’s public transit agencies on a path toward long-term financial stability and delivering a world-class transit system for all people in California.”

As it was with the initial development of the Task Force in 2023 budget negotiations, the Association will be an integral part of its operation. Of the 25 appointees, 12 are members of the Association: Kome Ajise, Executive Director of Southern California Association of Governments; Rashidi Barnes, Chief Executive Officer of Eastern Contra Costa Transit Authority; Alix Bockelman, Chief Deputy Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission; Sharon Cooney, Chief Executive Officer of San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS); Amy Hance, Deputy Director General Services for the City of Clovis; Kate Miller, Executive Director of Napa Valley Transportation Authority/Vine Transit; Lorelle Moe-Luna, Multimodal Services Director of Riverside County Transportation Commission; Seamus Murphy, Executive Director of San Francisco Bay Water Emergency Transportation Authority; Michael Pimentel, Executive Director of the Association; Robert Powers, General Manager of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District; Michael Turner, Executive Officer - Government Relations of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and Carl Sedoryk, CEO of Monterey-Salinas Transit District.

Other Task Force appointees represent labor organizations, local governments, legislative and Administration staff, social justice organizations, economic and academic institutions.

The next meeting of the Task Force will be held on Feb. 29, with subsequent meetings occurring every two months.

The Association’s Annual Conferences

This is the year to attend our annual Spring Legislative Conference and advocacy day! Taking place on May 21, 2024 at the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel, this event provides an important mid-year update on the Association’s top policy priorities and opportunity to engage directly with decisionmakers. Following the conclusion of the conference programming at 3:00 pm, attendees are encouraged to head over to the State Capitol Building for targeted lobbying and relationship-building with local representatives, legislative leadership, and staff. Participants are invited to arrive early on May 20 to attend the networking Legislative Reception at Ella Dining Room & Bar. Watch the April 2024 Transit California issue for details about speakers, sponsors, advocacy instructions and more.

Register for the conference here or contact Maria Barajas ( or 916-446-4656) for more information. Take advantage of Early Bird Registration by signing up by April 18. Registration closes on May 14.

Additionally, it’s not too early to mark your calendar for this year’s Fall Conference in San Jose from November 22-24, 2024.  For inquiries about sponsoring or exhibiting at the 2024 conference, contact Business Development Director Kristian Ross-Patchin at

There are so many ways to engage with the Association’s work over the coming year.  When you raise your voice alongside other Association members during state budget negotiations, legislative hearings, and regulatory efforts, you provide a unique, vital component in securing collective success.

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