WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee who served for many years on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, outlined the impact of federal legislation that threatens New Jersey's mass transit funding. The legislation was reviewed in the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday.
Standing with Congressman Pascrell against H.R. 3864 were representatives from the following organizations:
Amalgamated Transit Union
Utility & Transportation Contractors Association
TriState Transportation Campaign
Regional Plan Association
Transportation Communications Union
"Transportation used to be a bipartisan issue. Working together with Republicans in Congress, we were able to pass sensible, robust transportation bills that would not only meet current needs, but allow us to expand our system. We can see the results of some of these investments on I-80, and Routes 23, 46, 3 and 17. On the rails, we can see the new park and rides and this beautiful Secaucus Junction rail station, which allows commuters from Bergen and Passaic Counties to access midtown Manhattan quickly and efficiently," said Pascrell, who now serves on the House Budget Committee and is New Jersey's only member on the House Ways and Means Committee.
"Last week the House Republicans, beholden to the Tea Party extremists, decided to throw this history of bipartisanship and accomplishment out the window by advancing the most partisan and cynical piece transportation bill that Congress has ever seen."
"The GOP House bill is an abomination for mass transit in New Jersey and across the nation. It's clear House Republicans don't understand the needs of the thousands of working people of New Jersey and their families who rely on safe, reliable, affordable public transportation each day," said Ray Greaves, chair of the Amalgamated Transit Union New Jersey State Council. "Adding further insult to injury this bill is an early "Valentine" to foreign national corporations who operate U.S. transit systems and who would reap a financial bonanza if this bill is passed. The ATU stands with Rep. Pascrell to protest this reckless bill."
“It is of great importance to New Jersey that the nation’s federal surface transportation program continues its long term stable funding for our region’s mass transit systems. It is vital that our rail and bus systems are upgraded to meet the current mass transit demands of our State’s commuters and businesses," said Bob Briant, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of the Utility & Transportation Contractors Association. "The economy of the New Jersey/New York region will suffer if the current House bill proposal neglects to provide long term-stable funding and the Utility & Transportation Contractors Association urges the U.S. House Leaders to reconsider its position in this matter and we applaud Congressman Pascrell for his courage stand on this issue of significant importance to New Jersey!”
“Plain and simple, this bill would undermine the transit network that is so crucial to the state’s economic and environmental well-being," Steven Higashide, Federal Advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "Instead of the secure lockbox that exists today, funding for public transit would be subject to Congress’s political whims and annual funding battles. That’s a dangerous proposition for the 860,000 people who ride NJ Transit every day, and for the businesses that employ them.”
"Hard-working New Jersey residents take millions of trips each week on the state's public buses, trains and light rails, fueling our metropolitan economy" said Robert Freudenberg, New Jersey Director for Regional Plan Association. "This bill would eliminate a decades-old dedicated source of revenue for mass transit, jeopardizing the viability of the region's critical transportation network."
“This Ways and Means Committee proposal is a job-killer and ends mass transit as we know it across America,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. “We stand with Rep. Pascrell today to condemn this irresponsible legislation and to mobilize behind a surface transportation bill that massively expands investment in transit, rail, highways and ports and puts millions of Americans to work.”
H.R. 3864 would terminate the direct funding stream of revenue for the Mass Transit Account, and instead, fund expenditures through a one-time general fund transfer, what Republicans have previously referred to as a "bailout", of $40 billion. The transportation authorization bill has set a ceiling of $8.4 billion of expenditures on currently eligible mass transit programs and $2.7 billion new programs annually. Simple math will show that the fund will not support these expenditures.
As a result of the changes made in the bill, mass transit funding would no longer be dedicated from the Highway Trust Fund. Rather, mass transit would be dependent on general fund appropriations, which as we know, is a shrinking account. It is estimated that mass transit project funding could be reduced by as much as 25 percent.