We are tracking the legislative process as the Transportation Budget Bill Re-Authorization works its way through both the House and the Senate.
Although, the newspapers tell us, the House is less assertive in its Republican agenda than it was last year, the Republican membership is still adamant about terminating federal funding for high-speed rail.
It goes without saying that we approve of this as a matter of policy. As we watch the Transportation Budget process unfold, however, we also see budget slashing for public mass transit for urban and regional services, and with that we cannot concur.
We believe that the two metropolitan regions in California, for example, suffer for lack of adequate transit opportunities, and that the diverse service providers in those two areas of the state warrant far greater integration and a management structure that is transparent and subject to public scrutiny and oversight.
Additional funding is a necessary but not sufficient stimulus for upgrading these services which must be held to far greater standards of accountability. Which is to say that we want them funded but with considerable constraints place on how those funds will be used. And, we agree with Republican requirements for parsimony in the expenditure of federal funds, a behavior that has become notably lacking.
Having said that, I believe it is a mistake to reduce funding for intra-city -- as opposed to inter-city -- public mass transit services.
Nonetheless, we congratulate the House Republicans and urge them to stand fast in their high-speed rail opposition as these negotiations with the Senate and the Democrats in both Houses heat up.
House blocks highway bill money from going to high-speed rail
By Keith Laing -
02/03/12 01:21 AM ET
A proposed high-speed railway in California will not get any of the $260 billion that will be appropriated by the surface transportation bill being considered by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The committee voted as Thursday evening turned to Friday morning to approve an amendment from Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) to bar the proposed California railway, which has become a lightning rod for conservatives, from receiving any of the new transportation money.
Denham, who is opposed to the California railway, said “highway bill money should be used on highways.
“This Administration and the California legislature want high-speed rail at any cost, they will spend lavishly without a disciplined plan and say anything to get it done, but this amendment will prohibit highway bill money from being used on a project that is going nowhere fast,” Denham said in a statement after the amendment was approved.
About 20 percent of the money in the federal transportation bill, which has been dubbed the American Energy and Infrastructure Act (H.R. 7), traditionally goes to public transit projects.
Republicans in the House have sought to put the brakes on the proposed California railway since reports emerged last fall stating that the cost of building the line would increase from $33 billion to $98 billion. The project has received more than $3 billion from the Obama administration, which is more than any other state that was included in the president’s vision of a nationwide network of railways connecting 80 percent of Americans.
The amendment to ban money from the transportation bill from going toward the railway was one of more than 80 amendments considered Thursday in a marathon markup hearing that lasted past midnight.
Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) has promised to finish the markup of the transportation bill during the ongoing session, which has now topped 16 hours.
"We're not stopping,” Mica told members of the Transportation Committee after an evening recess. “We're going to take up the remaining amendments.
"The only way we'll have votes tomorrow is once that clock strikes 12,” Mica continued. “We're finishing this tonight."
Denham Amendment Adopted By Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to be included in American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act
Feb 2, 2012
Washington, D.C. - Congressman Denham’s amendment to ensure that highway bill dollars are not used on California High-Speed Rail was today adopted by the Transportation & Infrastructure committee, and will be included in the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7). Congressman Denham issued the following statement:
“Highway bill money should be used on highways,” said Congressman Denham, Subcommittee Chair on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. “This Administration and the California legislature want high-speed rail at any cost, they will spend lavishly without a disciplined plan and say anything to get it done, but this amendment will prohibit highway bill money from being used on a project that is going nowhere fast.”
Rep. Denham’s amendment was considered today during the Transportation & Infrastructure’s mark up of the long-term reauthorization and reform of federal surface transportation programs portion of the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act.
The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act utilizes the natural resources we have here at home to pay for much needed infrastructure projects, while also decreasing gas prices and putting people back to work. Congressman Denham is a member of both the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee as well as the Natural Resources Committee, which considered the energy portions of the bill Wednesday.