The Funding Debates Continue and The White House Recognizes a Transit Industry Leader

Feb. 15, 2012

The South West Transit Association (SWTA) Annual Meeting began this morning with a legislative roundup from each of the association's member states. After a state-by-state look, APTA President Michael Melaniphy gave us the latest up-to-the-minute update.

As Melaniphy said, "If there is ever a seminal moment in this industry; this is it. We have never been under greater assault than at this moment."

The first thing he mentioned was that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) delayed the highway bill vote until after the presidential holiday. "You have more time to go to the local district offices to meet with your legislators," Melaniphy urged.

The bill was also broken up into three parts: Energy and drilling, pension realignment, and the transit and highways component, in an effort to overcome the rising Republican discontent with the bill. Conservatives oppose the increased spending while moderates don't like idea of funding coming from drilling.

Melaniphy said, "As of this morning, they realized they still didn't have the votes and that there is less support than they did for the tax benefit over summer."

Melaniphy also said, the administration stated if the bill comes through in the current form, the president will veto it. The White House Statement of Administration Policy on HR7 states that it fails to make the investments needed to strengthen the nation's roads, bridges, rail and transit systems ... among other things.

And Sec. LaHood was quoted yesterday saying, "The House bill takes us back to the horse and buggy era. Thaty's why over 300 amenments have been offered – many of them by Republicans to a Republican bill. This bill in the House was writeen by one person and one person only. It's not bipartisan."

Melaniphy pointd out that more than half of the members of congress weren't in congress when SAFETEA-LU was enacted. "They haven't had to ask the question, why do I have to support transit?"

And to respond to that, Melaniphy said nothing is as good as the local story, "Here's what will happen to our employees in our private sector, at our agency. We provide jobs and we provide access to jobs; we have to get people back to work."

He stressed, "Many don't have an anti-transit position; they just don't have a position. Help them get a position."

The fuel tax that is given to the transit fund was enacted initially, specifically, to fund transit. It was always a transit fund. It was enacted for transit, collected for transit and needs to stay with transit. Melaniphy concluded, "Do not let them raid that and take it away and give it to other people."

Transportation bill information:

The Senate transportation funding bill: Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (S.1813)

The House transportation funding bill: American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R.7)

On a positive, exciting note, one of our industry leaders is being recognized by the White House as one of 11 local leaders being honored as part of the president's, "Winning the Future" initiative aimed at recognizing people who serve and strengthen their communities.

Justin Augustine, chief executive officer of the Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans, Louisiana and a vice president with Veolia Transportation, is being honored today at the White House. He is responsible for the vision and creation of the Loyola Avenue streetcar expansion. This $45 million dollar investment has attracted new investment along Loyola Avenue totaling $1.2 billion dollars. This expansion will contribute to a new, strong, livable neighborhood in the middle of the Central Business District.