Reps. Crowley, Rangel, Nadler and MTA Chairman Denounce Republican Cuts to Public Transit

February 6, 2012
Press Release

(New York City) –Today, Reps. Joe Crowley (NY-7), Charles Rangel (NY-15), Jerrold Nadler (NY-8), Carolyn Maloney (NY-14) along with Metropolitan Transit Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota, Transport Workers Union President John Samuelsen, Central Labor Council of New York City President Vincent Alvarez, and commuter advocates spoke out against House Republicans’ effort to cut federal support for public transit.  

The House Republican federal transportation bill will strip away the dedicated funding stream for the Mass Transit Account, which allows states, municipalities and local transit agencies to plan and fund capital projects with the certainty needed to make job-creating infrastructure investments. In New York City, the Mass Transit Account funds key investments the City’s subways, buses, commuter rails, and other forms of public transit. Slashing this funding stream will result in a loss of $1.7 billion for New York State and will adversely affect City and suburban commuters who rely on public transportation every day.

“With these cuts MTA will have a harder time planning and funding capital projects, contractors and construction workers will have a harder time getting MTA contracts, transit workers will have fewer employment opportunities, and commuters in and around the city, including my constituents in the Bronx and Queens, will see longer delays, slower trains, and decaying stations,” said Rep. Crowley. “We need investments that will help put people back to work, boost our economy, and create a better future for all New Yorkers - not massacre our mass transit system. Slashing public transportation strikes at the heart of middle class New York workers’ quality of life and it is not an answer to any of our problems.”

"At a time when unemployment in the construction sector is 13% nationally we should be putting people to work to improve our nation's transportation system, not cutting basic funding for public transportation providers such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. In New York alone, over 8 million riders rely on the MTA everyday to commute across bridges and highways to and from work. Gutting the lifeline for our nation's transit agencies will have an erosive impact on the people and the regional economy. I will be fighting against this deplorable bill that is obstructing our effort to improve our infrastructure and create jobs so that future generations may have an adequate and safe transportation system,” said Rep. Rangel.

“The Republicans are proposing nothing less than the dismantling of mass transit,” said Rep. Nadler, the senior Northeastern Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “In the GOP bill, mass transit would be dependent on appropriations from general revenue for the first time in 30 years, rather than being funded, as it has been, from the Highway Trust Fund. Such a shift in federal priority could be catastrophic for urban centers like New York which rely on mass transit for basic mobility and economic functioning.  This is absolutely unacceptable. Transit is not an ‘alternative’ mode of transportation and should not be treated as such.”

"The Republican transportation bill isn’t worth a warm bucket of asphalt. The Republicans need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a bill that keeps the dedicated funding stream for mass transit that we’ve had since the Reagan Administration. The MTA receives more than $1 billion every year from the Highway Trust Fund -- and we need this funding to ensure that the MTA's system continues to be safe and reliable for the long term,” said Rep. Maloney.

"Last week the House Ways & Means Committee took drastic action by voting to remove 30 years of dedicated federal funding for public transportation, essentially threatening to end the MTA's long-standing partnership with the federal government. These critical federal transit funds have been in place since 1983, when President Ronald Reagan signed the Surface Transportation Assistance Act into law. The proposal would substitute a reliable funding source with an undetermined-and wholly unreliable-commitment. And it would rob the MTA of investments we count on every year to fund our vital Capital Program. Make no mistake: As the largest mass transit agency in the country, this bill would hit the MTA hard," said MTA Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Joseph J. Lhota.

“We are extremely disappointed that this legislation would gut the Mass Transit Account by diverting nearly half of the federal investment in public transit that comes from fuel tax revenue. Such a move would have a significant impact on the ability of the city and the MTA to fund capital projects, as well as jeopardize much-needed mass-transit services and threaten jobs in this critical sector,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of NYC Central Labor Council.

"The House bill turns its back on decades of better transit in New York and all around America," said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for New York Public Interest Research Group Straphangers Campaign, a transit riders group.

“The bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee illustrates once again how dysfunctional Congress has become. By removing the gas tax as the method of funding mass transit, House leadership is threatening the future of a program, in place since the Reagan administration that is actually working well. The lifeblood of New York City is our buses, subways and commuter rails. Eight million people take mass transit every day in New York which helps to cut traffic, reduce pollution, spur our economy and improve public health. The bill passed today ignores the needs of cities across the country by relegating transit to an "alternative" transportation with an uncertain funding stream. Our country is being left behind as the world races ahead with 21st century infrastructure investments, this bill would take us even further from our competitors,” said New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

"The U.S. House of Representatives Ways & Means Committee abolished the guaranteed trust fund revenue for transit and gave it to the highway program," said Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City Transportation Commissioner and National Association of City Transportation Officials President. "This is an unprecedented departure from bipartisan support for a unified surface transportation program. Funding for bus and rail projects would be catch-as-catch-can, jeopardizing thousands of jobs and undermining progress in modernizing our transportation system."

"Public transportation has to be at the heart of our smart transportation infrastructure development, which is a major engine for our economy. Public transportation expands job opportunities for millions of car-less workers, creates jobs in construction and service, reduces congestion on our roads, reduces our reliance on foreign oil, and helps the environment.  It would be foolish not to invest as much as we can in public transportation,” said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4).

BACKGROUND

In 1983, President Regan signed into law the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, which created a dedicated funding source for public transportation through the federal gas tax. This dedicated source of revenue allowed states, municipalities and local transit agencies to plan and fund capital projects with the certainty needed to make these infrastructure investments as efficient and cost-effective for taxpayers as possible. As congestion rose in urban areas, and rural areas saw their share of car-less, low-income families rise, the need to fund this account has grown. The Republican proposal to redirect federal gasoline tax revenues away from public transportation will worsen this funding shortage and subject transit funding to the annual appropriations process, creating uncertainty for critical job-creating infrastructure projects.

 

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