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After Governor Jerry Brown’s pension reform act was signed into law in the summer of 2013, Santa Barbara’s Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) was put in jeopardy of losing $4.6 million per year in federal funding. The state law made cuts to bus driver retirement benefits without being negotiated with the employees’ union, causing a conflict with federal law. Unless this conflict was resolved, the federal government planned to withhold funding from the Santa Barbara public transit system. MTD threatened riders by laying out proposals including cutting weekend bus service, eliminating several lines, reducing the frequency of stops, and laying off dozens of drivers.
CAUSE helped bring together a diverse group of local stakeholders to find a solution. The Santa Barbara chapter of CAUSE turned out local bus riders to a series of forums to push back against the cuts. We told MTD and our representatives in the state legislature that the proposed cuts to local bus riders and drivers were unacceptable and that they would have to fix pension reform at the state level. With growing pressure from organizations around the state, the governor and legislature agreed to exempt transit districts from the state’s pension cuts, ending the dispute with the federal government and preserving funding for Santa Barbara MTD.