Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

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Schumer, Gillibrand Protect New York Mass Transit Funding and Block House Efforts to Gut Transit Formula; Bill Now Headed to President’s Desk for Signature

Mass Transit Funding Crucial to Maintain Subways, Commuter Lines, and Buses in New York and Around the Country; House Attempted to Slash Funding Levels and Eliminate the Mass Transit Account Entirely

June 29, 2012

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand today announced that they had successfully fought for an additional $200 million in direct formula funds despite numerous efforts by the House of Representatives to take away dedicated revenues from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust fund. Since 1982, the Mass Transit Fund has helped urban and suburban areas like the New York metro area expand and improve their public transportation systems by dedicating to transit one cent for every five cents earned in gallon federal motor fuel taxes. 

However, earlier this year the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles the financing portion of surface transportation reauthorization legislation, passed legislation that would abolish the Mass Transit Account, remove all fuel tax funds for mass transit and other transportation projects that reduce congestion or improve air quality, and would create a new Transportation Alternatives Account making these programs subject to the annual appropriations process. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also made several attempts to slash formula funding levels for public transportation programs by as much as 37%. 

After urging members of the conference committee to preserve the funding formulas established in the Senate bill and reject various House efforts to slash public transportation funding levels and revenue source, Schumer and Gillibrand today announced they had successfully blocked the change that would have not only eliminated the funding source for public transportation programs, but would have meant as much as $600 million less for New York mass transit.

 

“Mass transit is the lifeblood of New York, Long Island and Westchester, but if the House had their way, straphangers would have been left on the platform with no train in sight,” said Schumer. “I’m pleased that we were able to stop this wrongheaded plan dead in its tracks, which was designed to take away needed funding for our subways, commuter rails and buses.”

 

"This was a hard fought victory for millions of New York residents who commute to work every day using mass transit, said Senator Gillibrand. "Our mass transit system is New York's lifeline and it is vital that we invest in our city's subways, buses and rails. It is time to get beyond scoring political points and get back to growing our economy and creating jobs."

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 created a dedicated Mass Transit Account within the Highway Trust Fund, which enables urban, suburban and rural areas maintain, expand and improve their public transportation systems.  Current law provides approximately $1.2 billion dollars in federal formula dollars to New York’s mass transit.

 

However, The House Ways and Means Committee passed legislation in February abolishing the Mass Transit Account and removing all fuel tax funds for mass transit and other transportation projects that reduce congestion or improve air quality.  Even more troubling, the House Ways and Means Committee bill would have taken away funds already deposited to the Mass Transit Account this year and transferred them to the Highway Account – a departure from decades of dedicated multimodal transportation funding and will greatly decrease the ability to move goods and people through metropolitan areas.

 

In February, Schumer and Gillibrand urged members of the conference committee to reject the House legislation, and today they announced they had successfully blocked it. Schumer and Gillibrand noted limiting the highway trust fund just to roads would have made it more difficult for states to efficiently move commuters, reduce congestion and maintain a world-class transportation network. Having blocked this legislation, the transportation bill will now continue long-standing precedent and dedicate a fair share of the new revenue to the mass transit account.  Moreover, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand successfully negotiated public transportation formula funding so New York will be awarded an additional $200 million in new direct funding.  This funding level will enable the New York State’s public transportation systems to address a portion of the repair, rehabilitation and replacement needs. 

 

A copy of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter from February is below.

 

Dear Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Hatch:

 

We are writing to encourage you to reject any efforts to take away dedicated revenues from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund.  The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 created a dedicated Mass Transit Account within the Highway Trust Fund, which have helped urban and rural areas maintain, expand and improve their public transportation systems. 

 

The House Ways and Means Committee passed legislation last week abolishing the Mass Transit Account and removing all fuel tax funds for mass transit and other transportation projects that reduce congestion or improve air quality.  Even more troubling, the Ways and Means Committee bill takes funds already deposited to the Mass Transit Account this year and transfers them to the Highway Account.  This bill represents a radical departure from decades of dedicated multimodal transportation funding and will greatly decrease the ability to move goods and people through metropolitan areas.

 

Our national surface transportation system is one of the largest, most dynamic systems in the world.  Limiting the highway trust fund just to roads will make it more difficult for states to efficiently move commuters, reduce congestion and maintain a world-class transportation network.   Instead, we encourage you to continue long-standing precedent and dedicate a fair share of the new revenue in your bill to the mass transit account.   

 

We understand the difficulties your Committee faces in crafting bipartisan legislation funding our surface transportation system.  SAFETEA expired October 1, 2009.   We need to find the revenue necessary to move our transportation system forward and your Committee’s work is invaluable to achieving that goal.  Unfortunately, the House Ways and Means Committee has decided to pursue a partisan attack on mass transit that will limit transportation options for millions of Americans. 

 

Thank you for the consideration of our views.   We look forward to working with you to providing our country with a transportation system that will keep us competitive in the 21st century economy.