California could award VTA $20 million in mass shooting recovery funds

California legislators are on the verge of finalizing a state budget agreed to in principle last week. Part of the $250 billion-plus budget would include millions of dollars for recovery funding for the Valley Transportation Authority.

Both the State Assembly and the State Senate are set to vote on so-called trailer bills. One such bill would earmark money to directly help the VTA.

"These families are very scared and afraid. In many cases the main bread-winner are no longer with us. There's a lot of concern, a lot of fear," said John Courtney, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local 265, which represents VTA train operators and maintenance workers.

To tackle anxiety over VTA’s uneasy transition following a mass shooting at its light rail yard, Monday morning union reps, and elected leaders gathered virtually. The discussion centers on a $20 million relief package for VTA’s recovery.

The money would be used in part to help repair and improve the damaged Guadalupe light rail yard in San Jose.

"Replace doors, windows, computer screens that war used to track light rail," said state Sen. Dave Cortese, D-San Jose.

The equipment was damaged when VTA employee Sam Cassidy opened fire May 26, killing nine coworkers.

Some of the funds would also go towards grief counselors for traumatized workers, and the families of those who were murdered.

Passage is expected in part because of the looming recall of Governor Gavin Newsom. And because the state has a large, $75 billion state surplus.

"What you see in the trailer bills is the devil is in the details, about what actually will happen and what will be cobbled together in the budget. So what you have is a series of deals, built upon deals, built upon deals. And then legislators go to vote on those trailer bills to fund the budget," said Dr. David McCuan, dean of the Dept. of Political Science at California State University – Sonoma.

Even with this funding, local officials say more may be needed in the coming months from the federal government.

"We’re going to have to go back to the state, 85-150 million to raze the building to level it it could and should need to be rebuilt," said Cindy Chavez, the Dist. 2 representative on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

Chavez said she’s reached out to the South Bay’s congressional delegation to secure federal funding.

As for the suspended light rail service, there’s still no timetable for when light rail service will resume.