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Transit Stimulus Spending

January 26, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Elana Schor at Talking Points Memo has been keeping a close eye on the diminishing mass-transit spending in the Democrats’ stimulus bill.

House Transportation Chairman Jim Oberstar’s original $85 billion transportation stimulus funding proposal is being scaled back by the House Appropriations Committee in several areas, most notably in intercity rail and public transit. Meanwhile, the Appropriations Committee is giving nearly full funding to Oberstar’s request for highway and bridge construction.

Oberstar had originally proposed spending $17 billion in that area, but only $10 billion is set aside for it in the official House stimulus bill, H.R. 1. And the Senate’s version of the stimulus bill contains even less for mass-transit. Highway and bridge construction, on the other hand, is getting $30 billion of the $30.25 billion Oberstar had requested.

So, why the rail cut backs? In a speech recently to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Oberstar explained that they are to make room for the tax cuts that are being included in the bill.

>The reason for the reduction in overall funding – we took money out of Amtrak and out of aviation; we took money out of the Corps of Engineers, reduced the water infrastructure program, the drinking water and the wastewater treatment facilities and sewer lines, reduced that from $14 billion to roughly $9 billion – was the tax cut initiative that had to be paid for in some way by keeping the entire package in the range of $850 billion.
>But I’ll say that our portion is the one that really creates the jobs. Our portion of it is the one that’s going to put people to work because unlike anything else, these jobs can’t be outsourced to Bangalore, India.

Rep. Peter Defazio (D-OR) is pushing an amendment to the bill that would increase rail spending by $2 billion. It will have to be cleared by the House Committee on Rules on Tuesday afternoon if it is to get a full vote by the House on Wednesday. Keep checking Open Left for a possible campaign to push the amendment through the Committee.

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