Pallone Urges of Rejection of Amendment that Would Cut $50 Million Per Year from NJ Transit

Nov 12, 2015

WASHINGTON, DCCongressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and a bipartisan group of his colleagues are urging the removal of a provision attached to the House-passed surface transportation reauthorization that would cut federal public transportation funding to several states by approximately $263 million per year, including a $50 million annual federal funding cut to NJ Transit.  The amendment would eliminate the High Density States Program, known as the 5340 Program.  The lawmakers sent a letter to the bicameral Conference Committee that is negotiating a final draft of the legislation urging them to recede to the Senate bill, which maintains 5340 funding.

“I am calling for the elimination of this amendment because it would do unnecessary damage to New Jersey and six of our neighbors,” said Congressman Pallone.  “Half of all transit users nationwide live in these states.  This misguided amendment would trigger detrimental funding cuts that would force NJ Transit and other transit systems to reduce service, raise fares, cuts jobs, and create additional hardships for the millions of people who rely on public transportation every day.  At a time when our nation should be investing in our transportation systems and infrastructure, the amendment moves us in the opposite direction.”

In addition to New Jersey, the amendment would drastically cut federal public transportation funding to Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island.  It would force transit systems in these states to cut jobs, service, and service frequency. 

The full text of the letter follows.

To the Conferees:

The Herrera Beutler amendment to the House-passed Surface Transportation Bill that passed by voice vote that eliminates funding for the 5340 High Density States program will create a crisis in the states that provide half of all public transportation in the United States at a time when demand for transit has never been higher. This amendment doesn’t just eliminate funding, it takes funding from a critical formula-based program and redirects it to a 100 percent discretionary program controlled by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Importantly, Chairman Shuster’s amendment vote recommendations, which were developed in concert with Ranking Member DeFazio subject to the “Big 4” agreement, recommended a NO vote on the Herrera Beutler amendment. 

The elimination of funding to the High Density States program would force transit systems in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island to cut jobs and service and eliminate the ability to meet demand and keep our respective systems in a state of good repair. A bill that was carefully crafted to do no harm and ensure no one lost anything now creates devastating loss in the areas where demand for public transportation is the highest.

The effect of this hardship isn’t limited to transit providers and customers. The loss in funding will negatively impact local transit manufacturers and suppliers of transit related goods and services, as well as the jobs they create. We view this as an issue of responsible governance. An amendment that eliminates funding for states that provide public transportation to 50 percent of all transit riders in this country is irresponsible and can in no way be considered to be in the best interest of the people we all serve.

We strongly urge the Conference Committee to recede to the Senate’s position that retains the 5340 apportionments. We need a surface transportation bill that maintains an appropriate level of funding to not only meet the current demand, but ensure people in these states have the ability to access jobs, education, and health care.

Sincerely,