US Capitol Building dome
US Capitol Building dome, photo by John Colman

Tomorrow the House Ways and Means committee could move to end guaranteed Federal funding for transit. Currently Federal funding for transit comes mostly through a fixed percentage of the Highway Trust Fund, which is mostly funded through the gas tax, a guaranteed, if declining, source of funds. The bill to be brought to the Ways and Means Committee tomorrow would remove transit funding from the gas tax and thus only fund transit through general funds. This would subject federal transit funds to both the across-the-board cuts in current federal law and increased political maneuvering over the funding in each budget. The bill is clearly a move to reduce the federal commitment to transit going forward.

In our area, Dave Reichert is on the Ways and Means Committee. If you leave in his district and care about transit funding, please call his office and urge him not to vote for this bill. His office number is: 202-225-7761. Please say something like: “My name is Andrew Smith. I live in Bellevue. I have heard that the Ways and Means transportation bill threatens transit funding. I want Congressman Reichert to vote against the bill.”

19 Replies to “Congress to End Guaranteed Transit Funding?”

  1. FYI: That’s the 8th District. Basically, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Issaquah, East Renton, East of Kent, East of Auburn, the SE corner of Redmond, and most anything SE of Bellevue.

    1. I think you get the idea. My name is Andrew Smith, I assume you also have a proper name and know how and when to say it. :)

  2. It’s all a shell game. The money comes out of the Highway Trust Fund and then is replaced with money from the General Fund. This is the balance transit advocates love to point to and say “see, the gas tax doesn’t fully fund Highway Trust Fund.” I don’t see how ending this nonsense will end up in “increased political maneuvering over the funding in each budget.”

    1. Right now, they can’t cut transit funding without cutting highway funding. They can however, cut, say, NPR funding by itself. Transit will become like NPR.

      1. Can’t wait for the pledge drives. Just outside of downtown the evening bus stops “Sorry, no service home today until we reach our funding goal.”

  3. Not really sure of the logic of robbing Peter to pay Paul. If the Federal government can reduce our debt and tax burden, then a region that wants more density and transit can increase property and add asset taxes to the citizens who will directly benefit from them. In Washington, HB2100, a tax on financial assets, is the perfect mechanism for funding transit.

    1. That’s probably true for Seattle, but there are a lot of places that wouldn’t be able to raise that money and rely on the feds.

    2. The federal government is not going to reduce YOUR tax burden with these measures, which simply alter spending, and not significant amounts of spending either.

      Watch tax policy carefully — when you see capital gains taxes going up and payroll taxes going down, that’s when YOUR tax burden will be reduced.

      Remember, Mitt Romney pays about the same rate in federal taxes (capital gains) as a minimum wage worker (payroll), while everyone in between pays far more.

      Don’t imagine that *any* reductions in federal spending will reduce the actual tax burden on localities. Possibly if military spending is cut — it’s the only area of spending on the federal level which is actually significant enough that it might cascade into tax changes. Nothing else will; apart from that, it’s all about tax structure.

  4. Actually, there may be a silver lining to this cloud. Remember what happened with the Roads and Transit package? It died because the road folks didn’t want to vote for transit while the transit folks thought it was too road-oriented.

    As a result, the transit-only ST2 proposal passed because there are (or at least were then) more transit folks in King County than road folks.

    The same thing can happen nationally. Right now representatives from urban districts support highway packages because their transit funding is dependent on them. If transit is removed from the mix, they’ll vote “No, no, no” regardless how the asphalt pork is gussied up.

    Eventually to get them back on board, the highway folks will have to go back to a dedicated revenue source.

    1. Maybe. But remember that Senators representing 11% of the most rural voters can filibuster any measure, including a transit bill. Given that rural voters are the most pro-highway and anti-transit, it gives an anti-transit bias to Congress that doesn’t exist at the state or tri-county level.

      1. And we get back to the malapportioned Senate with its undemocratic rules.

        Britain got rid of that particular problem with the Parliament Act 1911. I don’t know how the US is going to fix it, but we’re going to have to.

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