Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released its proposed $260 billion, five-year transportation authorization bill, which was approved by a 29 to 24 vote.
On the surface, it would seem as if this action was a step in the right direction for a long put-off bill that is incredibly important to many, including those in the public transportation industry. However, later that same week, in a party-line vote, with two dissenting Republican members, the House Ways and Means Committee voted to end a 30-year federal commitment to dedicated funding for public transportation. The measure takes from transit the 2.86 cents of the federal gas tax and eliminates the Mass Transit trust fund, forcing public transit to compete for general funds that are in line for tough budget cuts.
The actions taken by the House Ways and Means Committee received plenty of criticism from groups, including the American Public Transportation Association and Transportation For America. In one particularly scathing assessment of the bill and the decision to end the 30-year-old funding mechanism, the National Resource Defense Council's Deron Lovaas called the House bill "fiscally reckless."
It would seem that the plan to eliminate the Mass Transit trust fund has a far greater impact on the industry than the dollar amount or length of a proposed authorization bill — the Senate Environmental Committee on Environment and Public Works' proposal is for a two-year, $21 billion bill. With that said, I know the usual suspects will support the Republican-driven House bill, but it seems again as if we are a long way from actually seeing an authorization bill passed.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "Bus operator training - fair and balanced " here.