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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis March 8, 2013
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Funding Issues Dominate APTA’s 2013 Legislative Conference

It is that time of year again, when APTA members migrate to Washington, DC, to meet with their elected congressional representatives and discuss important issues facing public transportation. The 38th Annual APTA Legislative Conference is the public transportation industry’s best opportunity to ensure that public transit’s message is heard loud and clear in ­Washington, and this year presents no shortage of legislative issues to address.

With Congress and the Obama administration failing to reach agreement on ways to reduce the federal deficit and debt, the Budget Control Act’s sequestration provision kicked in on March 1, forcing across-the-board spending cuts to both defense and nondefense discretionary programs. While the Highway Trust Fund programs, including those funded from the Mass Transit Account, are exempt from sequestration cuts, transit programs funded with general funds—such as New Starts, FTA administration, and FTA research, as well as emergency relief for public transit systems damaged by Hurricane Sandy and grants to Amtrak and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority—did have their budgets cut on March 1. These are important programs to our industry, and the Legislative Conference provides APTA members with an opportunity to tell Congress how these cuts will affect their community, system, or business.

Congress is also rapidly approaching another budget deadline, as the current Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 short-term appropriations continuing resolution (CR) expires on March 27. The House Appropriations Committee began work on a full-year funding bill to fund federal programs for the remainder of FY 2013 early last week, but it will likely take through the end of the month for Congress to wrap up its work on this legislation.

While APTA members are on Capitol Hill, they should urge Congress to provide full funding for public transportation programs at the levels authorized by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) in any full-year appropriations bill. Congress will also soon begin work on budget resolutions in the House and Senate and on the FY 2014 appropriations bills. APTA members should urge Congress to fully fund MAP-21 authorized programs in FY 2014 appropriations bills as well.

Looking a bit further down the track, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) and the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA) expire at the end of this fiscal year. Congressional staff from House and Senate railroad committees will participate in a new session at this year’s Legislative Conference, dedicated exclusively to rail issues. Members interested in passenger rail and the PRIIA and RSIA bills should plan to attend this new session.

Another new session, Funding and Finance, will explore the future of public transportation funding and where some of our coalition partners stand on this important issue. With the future of the gas tax uncertain, both the industry and Congress need to explore all options to ensure the viability of continued federal investment in public transportation.

As hundreds of industry leaders are gathering at the Legislative Conference to examine these and many other critical issues facing public transportation, the message is clear: Industry officials need to make certain that policymakers know that public transportation—agencies, manufacturers, and the entire business community—makes a lasting, positive impact on our country and is essential in advancing national goals.

APTA Moves Quickly to Develop Recommendations for Key Laws
APTA’s Authorization Task Force is currently evaluating MAP-21 and creating new recommendations for members of Congress to consider as they debate the legislation’s reauthorization when it expires on Sept. 30, 2014.

The task force was put into place shortly after MAP-21 was signed into law when APTA Legislative Committee Chairman Jeff Nelson, Chair Flora Castillo, and President & CEO Michael Melaniphy agreed that developing forward-looking recommendations—based on member feedback—was a clear priority for the association and the industry. The task force is led by five member co-chairs.

In addition to the co-chairs, Castillo, Nelson, and Melaniphy invited a diverse group of APTA members to participate in the process to set recommendations.

The task force will submit its report to the Legislative Committee, which will review and submit final recommendations to the APTA board. The board has set the end of 2013 as a target date to approve and issue the final recommendations.

A separate effort is underway to develop industry consensus on rail safety and ­passenger rail legislation, which expires in September. The Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA) and the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) were jointly signed into law in 2008 and both require reauthorization this year.

To meet this timeline, Nelson charged the APTA Commuter and Intercity Rail Legis­lative Subcommittee with developing APTA’s principles and recommendations for new legislation on these issues.

The subcommittee is composed of members who represent a broad swath of the ­passenger rail industry. It is co-chaired by Stan Feinsod, passenger rail consultant, and Joe Giulietti, executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail.

For more information or to submit feedback, contact APTA’s government affairs team at 202-496-4800.
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