Final Senate Compromise Appears to Avoid Cutting Transit Funds

Nelson/Collins Compromise Focuses Cuts on Education and State Fiscal Stabilization

The final version of the compromise stimulus bill, which was formulated by a group of about 20 moderate senators, has been released by Senated Ben Nelson (D-NE). It does not decrease funds currently proposed to be allocated to high-speed rail or transit programs, but it does not meet the higher standards for funding for fixed guideways and New Starts that were provided in the amendment added to the House version of the bill by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). Here’s a comparison of the passed House bill and the proposed Senate bill by the moderates:

Program Passed House Bill Proposed Senate Bill
Grants to Amtrak $800 m $850 m
Grants to States for Rail $300 m $250 m
High-Speed Rail 0 $2 b
Total Rail $1.1 b $3.1 b
Transit Formula Funds $7.5 b $8.4 b
Fixed Guideway Modernization $2 b 0
New Starts $2.5 b 0
Total Transit $12 b $8.4 b
Discretionary Grants 0 $5.5 b

The bills are quite different: the Senate bill provides a lot of money for high-speed rail, whereas the House bill provides nothing at all. Meanwhile, while the House bill provides $4.5 billion for fixed guideway modernizaion and new starts funds, the Senate bill provides nothing for those programs, rather placing $5.5 billion in a discretionary fund that the Secretary of the Department of Transportation will have control over; money in that pot can theoretically be transferred to both transit and highway projects.

The principal point here is this: the bills are different enough that we won’t know what the final bill will look like until the Senate/House conference committee releases its report after it meets. But the good news is that the Senate’s moderates haven’t chosen to take out their money-cutting desires on transit or rail, which means that the conference committee will have at least an adequate amount of funds for these transportation needs.

First, though, the Senate has to actually pass the stimulus bill as newly proposed.

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