‘Cash for Clunkers’ Backer Sutton Steps it Up for Ohio Transit

Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH) was one of the prime movers behind the economically and environmentally misguided "cash for clunkers" program, but she is switching gears to help save transit in Lorain County, Ohio, where bus service could be canceled in 2010 after voters rejected a sales tax increase to raise operating funds.

betty_sutton_energy.jpgRep. Betty Sutton (D-OH) (Photo: OHP)

The local Chronicle-Telegram newspaper reports that Sutton is seeking approval from congressional leaders for the county to reprogram $1.5 million in unspent stimulus money:

Sutton sent letters this week to David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, and Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., who chairs the U.S. House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, seeking approval for LCT to use $1.5 million in untapped American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds to operate the bus system.

“We hope new appropriations bills can be OK’d by year’s end that will let us use this unspent capital money,” Cordes said. “We’re trying to avert a total shutdown.”

Officials have said it is vital for the county to maintain some form of public transportation to remain eligible for federal transportation funds.

The inability of many localities to spend federal aid on transit operating costs -- thus creating jobs for drivers, maintenance workers, and other day-to-day staff -- has left many rail and bus networks facing punishing service cuts.

Congress agreed in June to let states use 10 percent of their stimulus grants for operating assistance, but Sutton's move could open the door for that number to increase in the coming weeks.