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Reauthorization back on track in Senate

The following is the Community Transportation Association's statement on recent actions in the U.S. Senate:

Monday night (Feb. 2), the U.S. Senate acted to keep its reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) on track for completion later this month. The Senate Banking Committee is now slated to take up its portion of the reauthorization bill – the Safe Transportation Equity Act of 2003 – later this week. We commend the Senate for its commitment to the millions of Americans who rely on public and community transportation every day and we urge them to move forward and invest in transportation now.

A new transportation reauthorization bill will bring needed jobs, economic growth and mobility choices to communities of all sizes throughout the nation. We must build on the excellent foundation of TEA-21 and its predecessor, ISTEA. The time is now to invest in transportation once again.

As Sen. James Inhofe said (Monday): "There is nothing the Senate is going to do which is going to provide more jobs than will be provided by this bill. That is why it is so important that we get on with this and get it done in the next 10 days or so."

Throughout this reauthorization process, we've urged those providing public and community transportation services around the country to "run on their record" of service. The action of the Senate proved this vital. For in the end, it's not the letter-writing or the phone calls – although these are important – that have carried our message.

It's really the work that goes on moving Americans every day across this nation – it's really your work. Everything we have asked you to do to help with this process – to serve more people, to be innovative and to maintain efficient, cost-effective services – has played a key part in this process.

(Monday), senators from every state, who often agree on little, agreed that your work and the work of all our transportation partners are critical to America's future. Keep up the good work and thank you for all of your help.

So, What's Happening?

The Senate Finance Committee has approved the revenue portion of TEA-21 reauthorization. In the Finance Committee's work, guaranteed revenues from federal motor fuel taxes and related funding streams would be used for all but $9.5 billion of transit spending over the next six years.

The "cloture" vote on the Senate floor was a testament of support for moving ahead in this reauthorization and ensures that the Senate will move this bill to a vote, as opposed to other, more controversial legislation, for which the Senate could continue to debate into oblivion.

As our statement above indicates, the Senate Banking Committee was supposed to draft its specific program and funding recommendations for the transit provisions of TEA-21 reauthorization. Unfortunately, there has been an incident of the lethal bio-toxin ricin in Senate Majority Leader Frist's mailroom, which closed all Senate office buildings at this crucial time for transit reauthorization. Nonetheless, we are confident that the Banking Committee will take up its important legislative deliberations as soon as the committee members are able to reconvene.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continues to hope to be able to finalize its version of TEA-21 reauthorization this month, but an unclear funding scenario may force some delay in their actions.

Chris Zeilinger
Assistant Director, Governmental Affairs and Training
Community Transportation Association of America