Senate Banking Committee to Vote on Transit Section of Transpo Bill Friday

If the Banking Committee is going to make any progress on the transit section of the Senate transportation bill, it’s going to have to happen before this weekend, when Congress leaves for the holiday recess and doesn’t come back till late January. Indeed, on Friday, the very last day of the session, Banking is planning to vote on its part of the bill.

Banking Committee Chair Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL). Photo: ##http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/22/business/la-fi-overhaul-attack-20110722##LAT##

The committee website is still silent on the matter, but Politico reported this morning that the news came straight from the horse’s mouth — Chair Tim Johnson (D-SD).

So what can we expect from this bill? Definitely not a change in the highway/transit split, insiders say. The 80/20 split is a tradition, they say, not a matter of law, but it’s not going anywhere. When you actually crunch the numbers, transit ends up getting a bit less than its 20 percent of the Highway Trust Fund receipts, but that’s still the number that’s used and you can expect it to stay steady in this bill.

Streetsblog has also wondered whether support for transit operating expenses might make it into this bill, and from what we hear, there might be a compromise. Aides say top committee Republican Richard Shelby is amenable to the argument that some operating assistance — as opposed to capital expenditures, which is what is normally funded with federal dollars — might be appropriate during a time of economic downturns, in order to avoid an abrupt dropoff in service or fare increases. But the support would be a temporary crisis measure, not ongoing policy.

As for what programs might get “consolidated” out of existence in the name of streamlining the federal program — we’ll have to wait and see.

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