In a move that should dispel any remaining thoughts that the House transportation bill [PDF] will ever be signed into law, the Ways and Means Committee announced today that they will try to forbid gas tax revenue from funding transit.
The Ways & Means bill [PDF] would funnel all gas tax revenue toward road programs, redirecting billions of dollars per year away from transit, which for decades has received about 20 percent of fuel tax receipts. Instead, the House GOP wants transit funding to come entirely from the general fund, pitting transit against all other government spending. To offset that spending, $40 billion would have to be cut from the rest of the federal budget.
Essentially, the House GOP is holding transit hostage to achieve budget cuts elsewhere — and they don’t seem to care if the hostage dies. They will also be tossing aside a precedent set during the Reagan administration, one that has enjoyed bipartisan support through several transportation bills, including the 2005 law, known as SAFETEA-LU, which was passed by a Republican president and Republican Congress.
Dan Smith of USPIRG put it like this:
The House Ways and Means Bill stops just short of defunding America’s public transit system. Instead it says that the real money with a funding source will all go to highways, while the tooth fairy will pay for transit. For Big Oil and the highway lobby, this is a dream, but it’s a nightmare for America’s transportation future.
In keeping with the secretive nature of the current House’s transportation reauthorization process, the announcement comes just one day before Ways and Means will mark up the bill. There is even less time to protect transit funding in the House bill than there was to protect bike/ped programs in today’s T&I markup.