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Transit Agency Could Get $3 Million Annual Payback

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A bill by State Sen. Joe Dunn could mean millions of dollars to transportation districts in Orange County and three other counties that lost money in the state bailout during the recession of the early 1990s.

The Orange County Transportation Authority would receive $3 million a year if the bill passes--money the state has used since 1993 to help pay for educational programs. The money would pay for 40,000 hours or 4% of the county’s bus service.

Transit authorities in Santa Barbara, San Joaquin and Marin counties would share $600,000.

The transit authorities in the four counties lost property tax revenue as part of a new state formula to transfer some of the cost of education to local governments.

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Dunn’s bill would not reimburse the counties for lost annual revenues of $13.6 million but would change the formula so they could start getting part of that money again.

“This money will be incredibly helpful,” said Sarah Catz, chairwoman of the Orange County Transportation Authority board of directors. “Three million can do a lot for the buses.”

The four districts were singled out during the bailout because each was contained in one county, making it easy to figure out how to assess them.

Other transit districts across the state were exempted because they crossed county lines, making it more difficult to determine how much the state would take.

“It was incredibly inequitable how they decided to take from four counties and no one else,” said Catz.

Dunn’s bill is the third attempt to correct the funding formula. Two bills failed in the Legislature in prior years, but Dunn said he will make the bill a high priority.

He has bipartisan support with 17 co-authors, including several Orange County Republican lawmakers.

“It’s important to make sure Orange County is treated fairly, which it certainly has not been since the early ‘90s,” Dunn said.

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