Nadler Calls for Fairness in Highway and Transit Funding

Jun 14, 2004

Washington DC -- Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today urged fellow members of the TEA-21 Reauthorization Conference Committee to ensure that New York gets its fair share of highway and transit dollars in the final version of the legislation. At a FAIR Alliance news conference, Nadler made the following statement:

As one of the founding members of the FAIR Alliance, and as a member of the TEA-21 Reauthorization Conference Committee, I am pleased to be here with my colleagues today to stand for what is fair in the six-year transportation funding bill. This legislation is entering a critical phase. The conference committee has just formally opened, and while much work needs to be done, such as determining the total funding in the bill, one thing is very clear -- the minimum guarantee program is under attack. The minimum guarantee program strikes a delicate balance by distributing funds based on need, while at the same time assuring states a minimum level of funding.

There are those, namely the members of the SHARE Coalition, who advocate disrupting this balance, and shifting money from certain states to others. We were successful at keeping the minimum guarantee program at status quo in the House TEA-LU bill, but I am concerned that the SHARE Coalition is well represented on the conference committee. If SHARE gets its way, many states could lose millions of dollars, particularly if the total funding is not significantly increased, which is unlikely given the White House veto threat. For example, my state of New York could lose over $300 million per year. SHARE would justify this change by arguing that states like New York get too much back in transportation money compared to what they contribute in gas taxes to the highway trust fund. This is a very narrow view that misses the bigger picture. For example, New York uses a lot of mass transit, therefore we contribute less in gas taxes than more gas-guzzling states. We should be rewarded, not punished, for using mass transit and being more energy efficient.

But the broader question, and what SHARE is really saying, is that each state should get a dollar back for every dollar it puts in to the federal system. That's ludicrous. If that were the case, we wouldn't need the federal government at all. And if you want to use such a calculation, to be fair you have to look at all Federal taxes, and all Federal expenditures - not just gasoline taxes and transportation spending. If you did that, you would find that my state of New York, for example, instead of getting $300 million less in Federal transportation funds per year, should get almost $20 billion more in all Federal funds each year, because that's how much more New York sends to Washington in Federal taxes each year than it gets back in Federal spending. Many of the states in the SHARE Coalition, by their logic, should have large reductions in Federal spending in their states, because on an overall basis, they are donee states heavily subsidized by overall donor states like New York.

The entire New York delegation has sent a letter to the conferees asking that the minimum guarantee program remain unchanged. Copies of the letter are available, and it explains very clearly the necessity of preserving a needs-based formula. I look forward to representing the delegation on the conference committee, along with my colleague Rep. Sherry Boehlert, to fight back these attacks on the minimum guarantee program, and ensure that NO state is unfairly punished in the next transportation bill.