Speaker Boehner delays completion of Transportation Bill until after President’s Day recess

On Wednesday Speaker Boehner announced the U.S. House of Representatives would not complete the consideration of H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012, until after Congress returns from the President’s Day district work period.  The House Rules Committee produced a rule for consideration of the energy and pension provisions of the legislative package Tuesday night. The Rules Committee also planned to meet on Wednesday to discuss the rule for consideration of the underlying transportation and revenue (Ways and Means) sections of the bill and the amendments that will be allowed.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler

On Tuesday Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the senior Northeastern Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, offered a bipartisan amendment designed to restore transit funding to H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, the House’s Surface Transportation Bill.  As H.R. 7 is currently drafted, the 30-year-old dedicated funding stream for mass transit is eliminated, imperiling long-term funding for transit projects across the country. A vote on H.R. 7 is expected for Wednesday.

“H.R. 7, as written, presents a catastrophic prospect for every city and commuter suburb in our nation,” said Nadler on Tuesday. “To eliminate transit’s dedicated funding stream and relegate funding to the political machinations of the appropriations process is, effectively, to kill transit funding.  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.”

Nadler’s amendment is co-sponsored by Reps. Steven LaTourette (R-OH), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Bob Turner (R-NY), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Michael Grimm (R-NY), John Lewis (D-GA), Michael Fitzpatrick (R- PA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Nan Hayworth (R-NY), and would restore the dedicated guaranteed funding stream for public transportation programs.  It would eliminate the Alternative Transportation Account, restore the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund and its 2.86 cent funding mechanism, and redirect the $40 billion appropriation in H.R. 7 to the Highway Trust Fund to ensure that there is sufficient funding for both highways and transit. It would also move CMAQ, Ferries, Puerto Rico and Territorial Highways, and Research back into the Highway Trust Fund, consistent with current law.

Michael Melaniphy

Meanwhile, fighting against any cuts is the American Public Transportation Association. In a statement on Monday, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said the organization strongly supported a bipartisan amendment to the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012

“APTA strongly supports the bipartisan amendment that would restore the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund and the 2.86 cents of motor fuels excise tax revenues currently dedicated to public transportation programs,” Melaniphy said. “It would eliminate the proposed Alternative Transportation Account, and provide for the trust fund to continue to invest in both highways and public transportation.”

Melaniphy says this makes it virtually impossible for public transit agencies to develop reliable long-term capital plans, and it could leave the future of the public transit program in peril and it would also stifle American job and economic growth.

Melaniphy added that the APTA agrees with both the Republicans and Democrats who are offering the amendment, calling it a simple common sense measure to ensure and restore the proper investment in public transit.