Transport Workers Union is strong supporter of surface transportation legislation that is properly funded, grants protections for workers and supports transportation growth in our communities. During the last eight extensions of previous surface transportation bills we have advocated for investments and policy that would match the growing demand for public transportation options.
Last night, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee marked up long awaited surface transportation language that had been released to members of the committee in an unprecedented manner which did not provide ample time to allow anyone to read the entire piece of legislation, not even the Chairman! During the marathon markup it was obvious that provisions of the bill were not open to debate and the past bipartisan methods practiced by the committee, was not at all the path that Chairman Mica would proceed with. Dozens of amendments that would have improved the flawed bill were forced through procedure only to be voted down, indicative of the dysfunctional committee. Though dozens of amendments were offered that would have perfected the defunct piece of legislation the bill instead was “railroaded” through. As a result, TWU does not support the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7).
Perfecting the unsound piece of legislation on the House floor remains hopeful. Until then, there are a myriad of things wrong with the bill. We’ve listed a few:
· The Highway Trust Fund’s dedicated “Mass Transit Account” is renamed the “Alternative Transportation Account” eliminating all dedicated funding for transit in turn creating a $40 Billion hole.
· It ignores years of sound safety precautions leaving individuals and communities vulnerable.
· It eliminates 2000 jobs for Amtrak’s food service workers while forcing Amtrak to foot the bill for any losses of the chosen privatized competitor.
· 13C protections are eliminated in training provisions.
· It forces federal government agencies to prioritize the privatization of transit agencies through new rules and regulations.
· It only allows for operating assistance for smaller transit systems with fewer than 100 buses.
Watching the committee mark-up, it was obvious who had the Chairman’s ear, as his bill grants significant privileges and opportunities to foreign companies that don’t share our American values, don’t produce American products, and don’t hire American workers.
TWU thanks Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3) for offering amendment HR 3200, The Local Flexibility for Transit Act on behalf of co-sponsor Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH-14) and the voting support of Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA-7) and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-2) and the attending Democratic members of the committee. Though the amendment failed 26-28, we commend these members partnering in the midst of deep partisanship. Public transportation is not a bargaining chip— it is the lifeblood of many cities around this country.
The House T and I Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee jointly are seeking to terminate the dedicated gasoline tax revenue of the Mass Transit Account which will amount to crippling transit systems around the country.
Meanwhile, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee in a bipartisan method presented their multi-modal transportation policies which aim to support local transit agencies by providing flexibility to use federal funds for operating expenses, investing in the America’s workers with current funding levels for the two-year proposal. We commend Senate Banking Chair, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SC), Ranking Member Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the key transportation subcommittee for their efforts and support in the Senate Banking legislation.
It is undeniable that the use of transit and rail transportation reduces pollution, enhances livability, and creates healthier, more accessible communities. The bill strips away decades of investments in community improvements, while trying to micromanage the use of other funds for the GOP’s pet projects.
In spite of a lack of proper investment, our transit and rail workers work every single day to ensure that every rider is safe, gets to their destination, and is treated with respect. It is a disgrace that the House legislation does not grant similar respect. We cannot support any bill that falsely claims to create jobs. We need a surface transportation bill that creates good jobs now! We do not support the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, and urge a NO vote when the bill comes to the House floor.