At center stage is a Republican proposal to move transit funding into a new ‘Alternative Transportation Fund’ in the bill, in which transit would have to compete with numerous other unrelated programs. For the last 30 years, revenues from the gas tax have been used for both highways and mass transit; now, receipts would only go toward highway funding.
Under the bill, Republicans plan to provide $40 billion to cover four years of transit funding – although we still don’t know where the money would come from – so there is no guarantee for any transit funds after 2016, when we’ll have to resort to fighting for every additional dollar during the appropriations process. Transit projects would no longer count on the dedicated money collected in the Highway Trust Fund. Such a reality could mean a virtual construction and service freeze by the MTA and other transit agencies, for fear that the federal government won’t come through with funding.
This is absolutely unacceptable, and a major step by the Majority Party to dismantle transit. In fact, Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) has directly stated that this provision, which guts transit funding, is the primary purpose of the bill.
In New York, the MTA moves 8.5 million passengers every day. That’s more people than the population of the entire state of Virginia. 8.5 million people. And that’s just in one day.
We cannot tolerate these efforts to punish New York and other urban centers. I frankly cannot believe that we are going back to the idea that transit is somehow less deserving of guaranteed federal funding. It is such an outdated way of thinking that would, if enacted into law, set us back decades. In 1982, President Reagan raised the gas tax and added mass transit to the Highway Trust Fund. He certainly believed that mass transit deserved stable funding. It has worked well for the last three decades, and there is no reason to change it now.
This bill is a dagger aimed at the hearts of urban and suburban areas across the country. I challenge any Republican who represents any urban or suburban district in the United States with mass transit to vote for this bill on the House floor.
Jerrold Nadler represents the 8th Congressional district of New York. He is a senior Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.