October 4, 2011

Capitol Hill view of reauthorization prospects still murky

While nobody refuted the fact that a long-term authorization bill is the best possible solution to keep public transportation moving, there were still no innovative solutions discussed for how to fund such a bill, during "The View from Capitol Hill" session on Monday.

Moderated by J. Barry Barker Jr., executive director of the Transit Authority of River City in Louisville, Ky., the session featured insights from key bipartisan congressional staff members.

"A short term bill is not perfect, but it is much better than cutting funding," said Homer Carlisle, Banking Committee majority professional staff member, in reference to the proposed slashing of public transportation funds by the House.

Carlisle added that if the proposed cuts were to go through, approximately 600,000 jobs could be "gone in a heartbeat."

While Shannon Hines, minority senior professional staff member for the Banking Committee, reported that no significant progress has made since last year, Jim Tymon, Republican representative for the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, reported that his boss, T&I Chairman John L. Mica, proposed a six-year, $230 billion bill recently and has his staff working on a bill that would more closely resemble current funding levels.

Tymon and Hines both agreed that the problem of rushing a two-year bill, as has been suggested by some members of Congress, is that it would completely deplete the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) by the third year. Both suggested that it is, therefore, extremely important to find a way to maintain current HTF levels, as well as find a new way to fund the authorization bill.

"We're really at a crucial decision point," said Tymon, who added that "breaking the bank" by funding a short-term bill without keeping the HTF solvent would result in public transportation cuts closer to 50 percent or 60 percent, instead of the 30 percent cut proposed in Chairman Mica's bill.

 

 

 

 

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