Mass Transit

DEC 2014 -JAN 2015

Mass Transit magazine features agency profiles, industry trends, management tips and new product information.

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FEDERAL FUNDING DECEMBER 2014/JANUARY 2015 | MassTransitmag.com | Mass Transit | 19 For more information, visit www.MassTransitmag.com/10066174 tee, Tim Johnson, has retired, and his replacement as the top Dem- ocrat on the committee could be transit champions Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) or Sherwood Brown (D-OH). As previously mentioned, chang- es are coming in both tax-writing committees as well. In the Senate, the fnance committee gavel is expected to pass to Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT), who is a pragmatic legislator with a history of strong support for transit projects in Salt Lake City. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the former chairman and transit proponent, will likely move to top ranking Demo- cratic member slot. In the house, the Ways & Means chair- manship is expected to pass to former vice presidential candidate and Budget Com- mittee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Te expected Ryan chairmanship is the real wildcard. Although not overtly hostile to transit interests — Amtrak aside — the fscally conservative Ryan has histori- cally, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, presented budget proposals to Congress that would make deep cuts to the federal transportation program. His primary motive has been to pre- serve the user-fee nature of the transpor- tation program and avoid general fund transfers into the highway trust fund. To accomplish this, spending must be scaled back to match the level of revenues gener- ated annually from the gas tax. While this may represent solid ac- counting principles, as most transit pro- fessionals know, federal spending has long outpaced diminishing gas tax receipts. Ryan's solution — to cut spending — could have long-lasting negative impacts on the program. However, Chairman Ryan is some- one who has a keen recognition that there is a funding crisis and he may very well be the catalyst for a long- term fnancing solution. Te hope is that the long-term solution does not include drastic measures such as devolv- ing the federal program to the states, or eliminating the mass transit account from the highway trust fund. Other committee and subcommittee changes will certainly have an impact on the transit program in the upcom- ing Congress — particularly within the Appropriations Committee, which sets annual spending rates, and the Senate Environment & Public Works Commit- tee, which takes the lead in developing the surface transportation authorization bill in the Senate. "Chairman Shuster has a long record of supporting public transportation and brings stability into the surface transportation authorization debate."

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