Thursday, September 8, 2011

Congress: Moving Right Along?

This week, Congress keeps racing the clock, moving down parallel tracks in terms of FY 2012 appropriations and the need to extend (and eventually reauthorize) the SAFETEA-LU highway and transit legislation. All of this is supposed to be done by September 30, of course.

In today's news, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee reported out a four-month extension of SAFETEA-LU, which, if agreed to by the other Senate committees of jurisdiction, the full Senate, and the House, would tide surface transportation authorizations over through January 31, 2012. Conceivably simple, even this glide path is said to be facing numerous obstacles, according to DC Streetsblog and other sources.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee drafted its version of FY 2012 spending, which includes a 30 percent reduction in funds for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and its programs. The draft bill provides for a tiny increase in Section 5309 funding for "new starts" and "small starts," but dictates that these funds are only available for small starts and for honoring those Full Funding Grant Agreements currently in place for new starts. The cuts all would be taken, presumably pro rata, in FTA formula grants, planning and research. In a bit of explanation on its website, the appropriators say "the Committee is prepared to support a higher formula bus spending level should a new, multi-year authorization bill be enacted."

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