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This week the House and Senate continued work on their respective versions of surface transportation authorization law. Progress on these bills is encouraging as the current extension of SAFETEA-LU expires on March 31. The underlying House and Senate surface transportation authorization bills share many similarities, including annual authorized funding of $10.5 billion for the federal transit programs. The differences in the two bills include the length of years for which the bill authorizes highway and transit programs, with the House bill authorizing programs for 5 years and the Senate bill authorizing programs for 2 years. The most striking difference, however, is the treatment of public transportation programs. The Senate bill would continue financing public transportation programs through dedicated revenues, while the House bill would eliminate the Mass Transit Account altogether and provide a one-time appropriation, leaving public transportation without dedicated revenues for the first time in thirty years.
Senate Begins Floor Consideration of Amendments to MAP-21
On Thursday, the Senate voted 85-11 on a procedural motion that allows the Senate to begin debate on S. 1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). This vote is an important step in the process as it allows the Senate to formally begin consideration of amendments to surface transportation authorization bill, which will continue at least through the balance of next week. The Senate will first consider amendments to the highway title of the bill, then move to the Banking Committee title which contains transit related provisions, and then to the Finance Committee title which contains the bill’s financing provisions. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is expected to offer an amendment with provisions related to freight and passenger rail.
House Consideration of H.R. 7 Resumes on Monday
As the Senate progresses with their bill, the House continues to advance H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012. Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee approved the financing title of H.R. 7 by a vote of 20-17. This title would eliminate the Mass Transit Account (MTA) of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), undoing 30 years of dedicated funding to public transportation from the motor vehicle fuels tax. The Ways and Means title requires that all Fiscal Year 2012 funds deposited into the MTA are to be redirected into the Highway Account of the HTF and creates a new “Alternative Transportation Account” that would provide funding for public transportation programs as well as the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Control (CMAQ) program, and several other programs. Additionally, the title would provide a one-time General Fund appropriation of $40 billion to the Alternative Transportation Account.
The House Rules Committee will meet early next week to establish the rules governing debate on H.R. 7, including the list of amendments to be offered.
House Amendment to Restore Mass Transit Account and Dedicated Funding
A bipartisan amendment to restore the Mass Transit Account and return dedicated motor fuels tax revenues to public transportation is being developed by Representatives Nadler (D-NY), LaTourette (R-OH), Blumenauer (D-OR), Gibson (R-NY), Crowley (D-NY), Turner (R-NY), Rangel (D-NY) and Grimm (R-NY). It is not yet clear if the Rules Committee will allow a vote on this amendment. APTA is urging a full floor vote on this amendment prior to final passage. Click here for a copy of the congressional “Dear Colleague” letter on this amendment.
- Contact your Representative and urge them to support, at minimum, that the Nadler, LaTourette, Blumenauer, Gibson, Crowley, Turner, Rangel and Grimm amendment be allowed a vote on the House Floor.
- Urge your Representative to support this amendment when it comes for a vote on the House floor.
For questions on these issues, please contact Brian Tynan of APTA’s Government Affairs Department at (202) 496-4897, or firstname.lastname@example.org.