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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 11, 2004

Schumer: New Senate Bill Contains Billions In Federal Transportation Money For New York State

Key Senate Committee has approved $7.1 billion for New York transit – a huge increase over the $4.9 billion New York got in 1998 - new money could go for new buses, bus repair, station rehabilitation

Schumer outlines strategy for maximum New York funding as House crafts its bill

Schumer details local impact of transit package; Capital Region would receive $54.7 million over 6

A new Senate bill starting to move through Congress contains $7.1 billion in transit funding for New York State localities, US Senator Charles E. Schumer announced today. Schumer said that the funds could be used for new buses, bus repair, and station rehabilitation – and urged the House of Representatives to approve a version of the transit bill that sends New York the greatest amount of money possible to maintain and expand bus and train service.

"We succeeded in getting New York a good deal in the early Senate version of this bill, but there are more battles to fight. The good news is that instead of fighting from the bottom of a valley, we're on pretty high ground," Schumer said. "These funds would be a huge shot in the arm for everything our local transit authorities need – new buses, repairs for buses, and fixing up our stations – and I'll be fighting tooth and nail to bring them home."

The nation's transit legislation is supposed to be renewed by Congress every six years and last week the US Senate Banking Committee approved a version of the legislation that would send New York State at least $7.1 billion for the next six years. This figure is a significant increase over the $5 billion for New York in the last major transportation bill that passed in 1998 and expired last October. The $7.1 billion figure is also a significant increase over the amount the Senate originally proposed this year – the original Senate legislation would have sent New York $6.5 billion.

Without changing the total $56.5 billion price tag for the transit bill, Schumer and a bipartisan group of Senators led by top Banking Committee Democrats Paul Sarbanes and Jack Reed and including Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania were able to increase the amount of "formula"funds distributed to urban states with large mass transit systems. This increase alone would send more than an extra $100 million to New York every year for the life of the bill. The bill also increases the percentage of formula funds sent to New York from 17% to 18.1%, which is also important because while funding levels can change over the life of a transit law, the underlying formulas generally stay the same.

Overall the Senate Banking Committee bill sends $7.1 billion in transit funds over six years to localities in New York: • Localities in the Capital Region would receive $54.7 million over 6 years;
• Localities in Central New York would receive $40.2 million over 6 years;
• Localities in Rochester/Finger Lakes would receive $52.2 million over 6 years;
• Localities in the Hudson Valley would receive $29 million over 6 years;
• Localities in Southern Tier would receive $20.1 million over 6 years;
• Localities in Western New York would receive $78.2 million over 6 years.

[Please click here for breakdowns of how much individual localities received.]

Schumer lobbied intensely for this new formula, calling Senate Banking Chairman Richard A. Shelby of Alabama at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to get more money for New York. Senators Sarbanes, Shelby and Santorum also joined Schumer to push through language that would ensure a stronger guarantee from the Senate Finance Committee that the transit programs would receive their full allotment of funds. Traditionally, the Finance Committee – which is dominated by Senators from rural states – is more interested in providing highway funding than transit money.

In the House, there are two versions of the transit bill circulating, where no committee has voted on a bill yet. The version that most Capitol Hill observers feel has a greater chance of passage is called SAFETEA and would send $6.0 billion to New York (17.6% of the $34.4 billion in formula funds - the totlal price-tag on the bill is $45.8 billion).

There is also bill called TEA LU under consideration in the House, but there is a general consensus that the government couldn't afford its $69.2 billion price-tag without some form of a gasoline tax increase. Despite its overall larger price tag, the Senate bill still sends a higher percentage of its formula money to New York. (Tea LU only sends New York 17.7% of the funds, compared to 18.1% in the Senate bill.)

Schumer explained that a small change in the formula for New York could make a difference of hundreds of millions of dollars for transit. He also explained that under the language of the bill, the federal funds could be used for new buses, repair of buses, and station rehabilitation.

Schumer today urged the Members of the House to approve a version of the transit bill with both a formula and a bottom-line amount that sends New York the greatest amount of money possible to maintain and expand bus and train service. They explained that despite regional differences and a perception that legislators from most parts of the country would prefer less funding for public transit and more for highways, New York prevailed in the Senate bill. Through a similar strategy in the House, New York could secure its proposed $7.1 billion funding.

"Better public transit is not only vital for the millions of people who ride every day but for the millions more who benefit from less traffic and cleaner air when there are less cars on the road. Without good transit, New York would literally stop short," Schumer said.


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