Early last week, the House of Representatives approved a spending bill that will cut more than $60 billion from the federal budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2011. The open amendment process, sanctioned by House majority leaders, allowed lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to offer both spending and cutting amendments to the budget. More than 400 amendments were offered in total resulting in round-the-clock debates on the House floor. When the dust settled early Saturday morning, the House voted 235-189 in favor of an FY2011 budget containing deep cuts to transit and rail programs critical to the tri-state region.
Notable efforts to protect transportation funding included Rep. Jerry Nadler’s attempt to restore all cut public transportation funding. Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm and Long Island Rep. Peter King urged House Majority leaders to reinstate $200 million in mass transit security grants and $150 million to Amtrak, and helped defeat Rep. Pete Sessions’ (R-Texas) amendment to eliminate all Amtrak funding. See Transportation for America and Streetsblog Capitol Hill for more.
State-By-State Cuts to Transportation & Infrastructure
According to analysis by the minority staff of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the cuts hit our region hard:
- A $430 million cut from the New Starts transit program and a “rescission” (takeback) of $300 million in awarded but unspent funds. This cut potentially jeopardizes new transit projects in our region including the Hartford-New Britain Busway (CT), 7 Line extension (NY), LIRR East Side Access (NY), and 2nd Ave Subway (NY).
- Elimination of TIGER program funding and a rescission of all unspent/unobligated FY10 funds. Projects in our region that benefited from the competitive grant program include highway removal and development projects centered around Route 34 in New Haven (CT) and the Sheridan Expressway in the Bronx, as well as Moynihan Station (NY) and expansion of bicycle pedestrian trails in Southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
- Elimination of the High Speed Rail program and rescission of all unspent FY10 funds, threatening HSR funding awarded to our region including $121 million to the New Haven-Springfield Line (CT), $38.5 million to help replace the Portal Bridge in New Jersey, and $18 million in Syracuse, NY for improvements to the Empire Corridor.
The current “continuing resolution” that keeps the federal government running at FY10 funding levels expires on March 4. Unless the Senate, the House, and President Obama can all agree on another short term “clean” continuing resolution that extends funding for federal programs at current levels, or pass a new budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, the country faces a government shutdown as a result of the budget impasse. What happens if a shutdown occurs? All federal government offices will close, non-emergency federal employees will be furloughed, and federal checks for all programs — including transportation funding to states — will stop. Most beltway news outlets are reporting that a government shutdown looks increasingly likely.