The transit industry's leading D.C. lobbying outlet today joined the umbrella group for state DOTs and two major construction groups to protest the Senate climate bill's failure to set aside all of the revenue from its proposed new fuel fees for infrastructure projects -- specifically, to the cash-strapped highway trust fund that is generally split, 80-20, between roads and transit.
Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), center, and John Kerry (D-MA), right, with onetime climate bill cosponsor Lindsey Graham (R-SC) at left. (Photo: CSM)
American Public Transportation Association (APTA
) chief William Millar told reporters that while the local transit agencies he represents are "very supportive
of legislation to address climate change and energy issues," the Senate bill's diversion of all but about $6 billion
of its fuel revenues for purposes unrelated to transportation is a matter of serious concern.
"This is one of those cases where we really can't even talk about the merits of any
portion of the bill because the fundamental position is flawed," Millar said.
Referring to the legislation's promise of funding for the clean transport and land-use grants known as "CLEAN TEA" and TIGER, he added, "Many of those are very good ideas … but you can't make those ideas work if there's no significant funding to make them work, and
this bill would aggravate the funding situation for public transit."
John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), was more direct in outlining where state DOTs want to see the Senate climate bill's fuel revenues directed. "Channel[ing] every dollar through the highway trust fund," he said, would help the industry break through a congressional stalemate and win passage of a new six-year federal transport bill.
Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors, and Pete Ruane, president of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, echoed Horsley's interpretation of the new fuel fees in the climate bill -- which are imposed on oil companies and refiners but are likely to be passed along through higher gas prices -- as a de facto "user fee" on drivers.
The climate proposal, Ruane said, does "nothing more than finance a lot of goals, which are enviable in part, on the backs of transportation users."
It remains to be seen whether the transportation industry's combative stance against the partial diversion of the bill's transportation revenue, billed as a "call for a rewrite" of the climate legislation, will help force senators into restructuring the measure. Ruane said he "like[s] the odds" facing the four groups.
But one congressional source was befuddled by APTA's move to "bit[e] the hand that feeds them" by criticizing a climate bill that stands to give broad, lasting benefits to rail and bus systems. Read more...