AFL-CIO Flexing Its Muscle for Senate Transit Operating Aid Bill

The AFL-CIO, a formidable lobbying force in Washington, is throwing its weight behind a Senate bill offered last week that would authorize $2 billion in emergency funding for transit agencies forced to hike fares or cut service in lean budgetary times.

JesseJacksonPhoto.JPGRev. Jesse Jackson, second from left, has joined transit workers’ unions in their Save Our Ride campaign. (Photo: Streetsblog NYC)

"Unless the U.S. Senate passes" the transit operating legislation, the union’s Mike Hall wrote in a Friday blog post, "working families who count on public transportation systems in
communities across the country will face even more severe fare
increases and service cuts and transit workers are looking at further
layoffs."

The president of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, Ed Wytkind, also pushed for passage of the Senate bill in a National Journal guest blog post this morning. The Amalgamated Transit Union and the Transport Workers Union, both AFL-CIO members, have aligned with Rev. Jesse Jackson, environmental groups, and civil-rights advocates for a campaign dubbed Save Our Ride that seeks to stave off sweeping transit cuts in major cities.

The unions have several hurdles to clear before the transit funding becomes available, however. The Senate legislation contains only authorizing language, meaning that lawmakers must quickly follow with "appropriating" language that technically disburses the operating money.

That two-step process would have been accomplished quickly by attaching the transit aid to a larger bill that is considered "must-pass" by Congress, such as the upcoming supplemental funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Republican senators vowed early on to oppose any attempt to add unrelated spending to that measure, and the Senate passed its version sans transit aid before adjourning for the Memorial Day recess.

That leaves room for the AFL-CIO to generate momentum for another vehicle to carry the transit funding — but given the resistance among both House and Senate Democrats to any new spending not offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, the union may face an uphill battle this summer.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Eight Senate Dems Offer $2B Plan for Emergency Transit Operating Aid

|
Transit agencies forced to raise fares or cut service to close budget gaps would be eligible for $2 billion in emergency operating funds under legislation unveiled today by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) and seven other Democratic senators, including two members of the party’s leadership. Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT), left, Charles Schumer (D-NY), […]

National Transit Union Proposes a Smart Fuel Subsidy

|
Tired of hearing about gas tax holidays, bridge toll suspensions, and rebates for drivers? Here’s a policy proposal that will actually improve commutes, not just encourage trips by car: subsidizing fuel for transit systems. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, rising diesel prices are hitting transit agencies hard (preview only), leading to […]

Hillary Clinton Introduces Senate Version of Transit Relief Bill

|
Transit operators struggling to keep pace with demand as rising fuel costs strain their budgets received some welcome news on Friday. New York’s junior senator has introduced a version of the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act. The bill, which would provide $1.7 billion for local transit agencies over the next two years (including $237 […]

Would Dems’ Pledge for “Change” Bring Transportation Reform?

|
Hillary Clinton ad now airing in Southern California  This is part two of a two-part series on where candidates for president stand on transportation issues, authored by Streetsblog Los Angeles correspondent Damien Newton. Damien currently runs the blog Street Heat, which is soon to become Streetsblog L.A., our first foray into foreign territory. Damien was […]