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Andrea Bernstein

Andrea Bernstein appears in the following:

Big Names Ready a Lawsuit to Remove Brooklyn Bike Lane

Friday, February 04, 2011

Prospect Park Bike Lane

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It’s a who’s who directory of city government. Iris Weinshall, the former city transportation commissioner and wife of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.    A dean at Brooklyn College.  Norman Steisel, the former deputy mayor under Edward Koch and David Dinkins.   And the other former deputy mayor, Randy Mastro (under Giuliani) who introduced the group to a colleague at his high-powered law firm, Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher. And what is all this former government firepower being assembled to do?  Remove a bike lane on Prospect Park West, in Brooklyn.

Controversy over the bike lane began even before it was installed, last June.  Though the local community board approved the lane – both to provide a safe haven for commuting cyclists and to slow traffic along Prospect Park West – some residents of the leafy boulevard and their supporters were outraged.  They said the two-way lane – which is separated from automobile traffic by a row of parked cars -- would cause congestion, change the historic character of the avenue, and make pedestrian crossing dangerous and confusing.  To make room for the bike lanes, automobile traffic was constricted from three lanes to two.

Protest Against the Bike Lane in October Photo Erin McCarty/WNYC

Marty Markowitz, the Borough President of Brooklyn, who’s known for trying to put the whole borough on a diet and for brandishing Star Wars lasers at graduations, called the city transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, a “zealot” for wanting to install this lane.   But cyclists, and the local community board, remained steadfastly behind it, saying it would improve quality of life for Brooklyn residents, make travel safer, and encourage people to use bikes instead of automobiles.

Last month, the city DOT released its findings.  The lane had cut speeding dramatically. One in five cars now speeds, the city says, compared to the three out of four who used to.   The consequences, the city DOT says – are potentially life-saving.  A pedestrian hit by a car driving 40 mph has an eighty percent chance of dying.  A pedestrian hit by a car driving 30 mph will survive two thirds of the time.  That, the DOT says, is the difference the lane has made.

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Residents Prepare Lawsuit on Brooklyn Bike Lane

Friday, February 04, 2011

Controversy over the bike lane began even before it was installed last June. Though the local community board approved the lane, some residents and their supporters were outraged. The...

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City Finally Puts $$ Behind Subway to New Jersey

Friday, February 04, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Call it the return of the Secaucus 7. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has finally put some muscle into his proposal to extend the number 7 subway train under the Hudson River to New Jersey, making it the first NYC subway train to go to another state.  It would be a substitute for the NJ Transit commuter tunnel, known as the ARC, or Access to the Region's Core, that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie killed last fall.

This week, Mayor Bloomberg's Economic Development Corporation voted to put a quarter of a million dollars into a three-month feasibility study of the tunnel.  The contract for the study goes to Parsons Brinckerhoff, a major engineering firm that had been working on the ARC tunnel.

The firm is tasked with assessing demand and cost -- which Mayor Bloomberg, without any engineering studies behind him -- has said would be roughly half that of the ARC tunnel.

The head of the MTA, Jay Walder, has been genial about the project, but the agency is already struggling to pay for capital costs for its current system, and this week learned it would be faced with another $100 million in cuts from the state budget.  Bloomberg does not control the MTA -- NY Governor Andrew Cuomo does -- though Bloomberg does have representation on the MTA board.

When the city was pushing construction of a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, Bloomberg succeed in gaining MTA approval for extension of the #7 train to the far West Side of Manhattan by promising to foot the $2 billion in construction costs.  But that was during flusher times, when neither the MTA nor the city was broke.

It's unclear whether the federal government's investment of $3 billion, lost when the ARC tunnel died, could be applied towards this project, or whether the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey would contribute funds, as it did to the ARC.

Here's the EDC documentation on the contract:

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Report: Stimulus Transit Projects Create Nearly Double the Work of Road Projects

Friday, February 04, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  A new report from Smart Growth America analyzes data released by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and finds that for every billion dollars spend under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act -- the stimulus bill -- on roads, 2.4 million job-hours were created.  But for every billion spent on transit, 4.2 million job hours were created, a seventy percent increase.

The report defines "job-hour" in a footnote as an hour worked, which it says is a more meaningful figure than "a job" since the latter gives no indication of the duration of the job.

It's one of an expected flood of reports on all sides as partisans prepare to do battle on the next reauthorization bill, set to be introduced in the near future.

The Obama Administration is increasingly positioning to discuss the transportation bill as a jobs bill.

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Staten Island To Get Real Time Bus Info By End of the Year

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Placard Advertising Bus Info on Brooklyn Bus

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  It's hard to think about next Christmas before Valentine's day, but the MTA says Staten Islanders will get a Christmas present in 2011 -- real time bus information on all 900 of their buses by the end of 2011.

The MTA is currently piloting such a program on its B63 bus. in Brooklyn. (For details on that pilot, including where to get the information, check out Transportation Nation's story on the program here.)  Small field tests of that pilot show the information to be accurate, though right now, you either have to know the code or go to the website mta.info/bustime, enter B63, choose a direction, and then find your stop.  In the near future, the MTA says, placards at each stop will give text number codes riders can enter.

Real time information enables riders to plan trips, to stay inside in inclement weather until shortly before a bus arrives, or to make decisions about whether to take a bus, walk, or pursue another mode of transit.  It's improved customer satisfaction -- even in a time of service cuts and fare hikes -- in Boston, Chicago, and other cities.

The MTA says once all of Staten Island is outfitted, it shouldn't be too long before the rest of the city's 6000-bus fleet gets buses, but it isn't giving an exact date for the other four boroughs.

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Charlotte Gets Dems, Tampa Gets GOP

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Department of FWIW -- The 2012 Democratic National Convention goes to Charlotte NC, which voted under a Republican mayor to tax itself for a light rail system (it now has a Democratic Mayor).  The 2012 Republican National Convention goes to Tampa, which under a Democratic mayor was part of a county-wide vote to REJECT a transit tax.  Got all that?

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Brooklyn Gets Real-Time Bus Info

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

(New York, NY --John Keefe, WNYC) Brooklynites, now you may know: Your bus cometh.

You may know, that is, if you have a mobile phone and ride the B63, which rolls from Cobble Hill to Bay Ridge through Park Slope and Sunset Park.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced today that real-time data from GPS transmitters on B63 buses is available to the public. Riders can get the info in a few ways:

  • On a Google map.
  • Via a  text version of the entire route, locating the buses with bold text
  • You can get the info by texting a number that corresponds to your stop. A full list of stops and codes is here. For example, If you're  at Fourth Avenue and Atlantic, you'd text "MTA 308536" to 41411 and you'll get latest info texted back. Eventually, the proper code will be posted at each stop.
  • There will also be QR codes at every stop, so if your phone has a camera and a QR reader, you can shoot the pattern and jump online to the bus status for that location.  No word yet from the MTA when those codes will be posted.  As of today, there were blank boxes at many stops.

You won't see countdown signs like those new ones in the subway. At least not yet. But the MTA says it's developing ways for merchants on the route to have their own signs, kind of like what's been done in Boston.

It's also not really an app, and none of the methods above seem able to locate you with your GPS as you stand at a bus stop.

Massachusetts overcame those problems by making all the data available, in real time, to the private sector, and letting private software developers add the bells and whistles -- and as a result, all sorts of apps were created -- including one that will set off a alarm so you can leave your home or place of business when a bus approaches.  Massachustts' philosophy is that they're a transit agency, not software developers -- a fact that the MTA has seemed to partially acknowledge by teaming up with the non-profit group Open Plans to develop "bustime."

UPDATED Feb. 2, 2011: The MTA has also made data for B63 available to the public in this way. Using an API, or application programming interface, you can expect independent programmers will build applications and services using the live information.

In Boston, to get such applications, bus riders need to pay a small fee, usually about $0.99 or $1.99. The current NYC texting and web info is free.

The B63 joins two earlier pilot projects on the M16 and M34 in Manhattan.  Those projects were entirely paid for by the MTA.  The Authority isn't immediately saying how much it has spent on the B63 pilot.

Oh yes. So far as a field test could tell, the information seems to be entirely accurate.


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NY Governor Cuomo Proposes Using $165 Million in Transit Operating funds to Pay Debt Service

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A deep freeze in Albany as Cuomo prepares to unveil budget. Photo: Azi Paybarah/WNYC

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo releases his budget today -- slashing doesn't even begin to describe it.  Here's what his press release says about transportation (remember, this is his office's spin -- the most positive interpretation possible.)  Working on getting reaction:

"Despite the current fiscal crisis, Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget continues prior year funding levels for the core transportation capital programs supported by the Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund, providing $501 million for highway and bridge construction, $363.1 million for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and $39.7 million for the Marchiselli program for local governments, and $16.9 million for Amtrak service subsidies and additional rail capital investments.

"The Executive Budget also provides a modest increase in cash operating support for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of $43 million, bringing total cash operating support to $3.8 billion, and for other transit systems of $2 million, bringing their combined total to $401 million.

"Although the budget also provides $100 million to the MTA's capital program from redirected economic development funds, it also proposes using $165 million of Metropolitan Mass Transportation Operating Assistance Account funds to pay debt services on State bonds previously issued for the MTA capital program that otherwise would be paid from the General Fund and transferring $35 million in MMTOA funds to the General Fund."

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NY Senate Majority Leader: MTA Needs a Balanced Capital Plan

Friday, January 28, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It's a very, very thin thread, but the new Republican majority leader of the New York State Senate told a group of New York business leaders this morning:

"Another way we can create jobs is through smart investments in our transportation infrastructure. New York needs a balanced multi-year capital plan for both the MTA and the roads and bridges in New York State," Dean Skelos (R-Long Island) told the Association for a Better New York breakfast this morning.

His comments could be meaningless or anodyne -- or they could me he doesn't mean do what the (then Democratic-led) legislature did last year, which was  to repurpose $140 million in revenue that was supposed to go to the MTA to fill the state's own budget needs.

As we reported here earlier, Governor Cuomo has not committed to keep MTA funding for the MTA -- he's  said all budget money is fungible.

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NYC MTA: Our Website Maxed Out at 500,000 Users in This Blizzard

Thursday, January 27, 2011

(New York, NY -- Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  The NYC MTA says some 500,000 people tried to access its site this morning, causing some users to be blocked from the site, MTA.info. Spokesman Jeremy Soffin says that's nearly double the amount -- 270,000 -- that tried to access the site at any one instant during the infamous blizzard of 2010.  Soffin says the MTA is in the course of "dramatically increasing"  the site's capacity, and is hiring a contractor for a site overhaul.  In the meantime, he says, the transit authority is planning "an interim bump-up" in capacity within the month.

Soffin says the site is a "victim of its own success," as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and several media outlets, including WNYC, referred users to the site, which has come to be seen as a source of relatively reliable information.

As the site got more and more users this morning, it downshifted from one that has enticing, colorful graphics to a plain text site posting service alerts.

Those alerts were aggressively circulated to the MTA's media list, with frequent updates on where subways were not running, and, in the cases of buses, when they were returned to service after a midnight suspension.

Many commuters who spoke with WNYC said their commutes were slow..but possible.   In one case, a train was diverted to Coney Island terminal overnight, and dozens of passengers were stranded there, but Soffin said it was preferable to be in a terminal than stuck on the tracks, and it meant the morning commute wasn't impeded by stranded trains on the tracks, as happened in the December storm.

Gene Russianoff, a frequent transit gadfly -- who was able to access the site between 7 and 9 am  -- offered a "Congrats!" to the authority on his twitter feed for "much useful travel info on MTA website."

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Crush of Commuters Max Out MTA Website

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The MTA's Web site was inaccessible many commuters who tried to log on Thursday morning to find out about storm-related mass transit disruptions but were unable to load the site.

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Rahm Emanuel's Transportation Plan: It's All About Transit

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rahm Emanuel with Commuters: Source Emanuel Campaign

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Now that he is on the ballot for Chicago Mayor, (or so it seems,) we thought we'd write about Rahm Emanuel's transportation plan, which it turns out, is a transit plan. Which is kind of interesting, because "transportation" frequently includes things like roads, tolls, bridges, parking, that sort of thing.

But here's Emanuel's:  First bullet:  "Establish a transit-friendly development policy." Second "Expand the Red Line."  Third "Pursue BRT."

Now, it's not unusual for a Mayor to be pro-transit -- for example, take a look at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan from when he ran for re-election in 2009. (Most of the items on Bloomberg's agenda, BTW, are controlled by the MTA, which is in turn controlled by the Governor, not the Mayor.  And Andrew Cuomo, when he was running, did not have a transit plan.)

But still, our impression in the White House when Rahm Emanuel was chief of staff, was this:  It was transit-friendly, but not deeply in touch with the latest details of transit thinking. An exception to that was high-speed rail.

As we reported way back when, when the stimulus was being hammered out, high speed rail was only supposed to get $1-2 billion. But in the middle of the night, literally, that was scratched out, and the amount went to $8 billion. It was Rahm Emanuel, at the end of the day (or the wee hours of the morning, as it happened) who got that amount changed, sources told us.

Take a look at his transit plan. Chicago residents, what do you think?

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Congestion Pricing Effort is Underway in New York

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  A private, non-profit group has been organizing to bring congestion pricing to New York City.  Environmentalist Alex Matthiessen, the former Hudson Riverkeeper and a former Clinton administration aide, has founded the Sustainable Transportation Campaign, a group devoted to seeking a regular, recurring funding stream for mass transit in the New York City region.  For the past six months, Mattheissen has been quietly meeting with potential supporters.  Still, there is no formal budget, list of supporters, or definite state proposal on congestion pricing.

The last time New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed congestion pricing, it foundered in the state legislature.  A plan once championed by the socialist former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, as a way to transfer wealth from well-to-do to not-so-wealthy transit riders, became seen as billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg's scheme to keep middle-class workers out of Manhattan once it jumped across the pond.

Now, Mattheissen is spearheading a non-governmental approach. Supporters of congestion pricing hope that can separate the issue from Mayor Bloomberg's political fortunes.

Still, Bloomberg doesn't seem quite willing to stay above the fray. At a press conference today, he joked with reporters, "My God! How did they think of that?" before adding: "If they're working on it, I happen to think it makes some sense, but I'm going to stay out of it.  We've done everything we can. We had an idea. We did all the work to implement it and explain it to people.  But unfortunately it was like jumping 95 % across the Grand Canyon -- it didn't work."

Other groups who have supported congestion pricing in the past say they are still behind the concept, but are waiting to see a specific proposal from Mattheissen. Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, said she believes relieving congestion is a key priority for business in New York, but said there's no proposal to support. The Working Families Party said they also were waiting for a specific plan, but they hadn't signed off on anything.

Governor Cuomo expressed skepticism during the campaign about congestion pricing. Speaking in Poughkeepsie last week, he said a payroll tax passed last year to fund the MTA was "erroneous" and he was open to a "better way" to fund the MTA -- but he didn't say what that would be.

Manhattan State Senator Daniel Squadron supports the idea of congestion pricing and is floating the idea in Albany, though neither legislative leader has come out in favor of it.

More TN coverage:

NY Candidate Cuomo: Congestion Pricing "Moot";

NY Third Party Candidate Charles Barron Opposes Congestion Pricing;

NY's New Deputy Mayor Likes BRT and Congestion Charging--But Does He Like Bike Lanes?

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Non-Profit Quietly Pushes to Bring Congestion Pricing to NYC

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

WNYC

A private, non-profit group has been quietly organizing to bring congestion pricing to New York City.

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Biden, Obama visit Purple States to Tout Energy, Infrastructure Plan

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation)  For Biden, it's Greenfield Indiana (a state that Obama won by less than one percentage point over McCain in 2008).

Here's the White House press release:

Vice President Biden Announces Plan to Put One Million Advanced Technology Vehicles on the Road by 2015

Visiting Ener1, Inc. Factory, Biden brings “White House to Main Street Tour” to Greenfield, Indiana

Washington, D.C. – Today, Vice President Biden, Chair of the Middle Class Task Force, took the “White House to Main Street Tour” to Greenfield, Indiana, where he visited leading manufacturer Ener1, Inc., which produces advanced lithium-ion battery systems for electric vehicles, grid energy storage and industrial electronics.

In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama highlighted his goal of making the United States the first country in the world to put one million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015.  Following a tour of the Ener1, Inc. factory today, the Vice President met with workers to discuss the Administration’s new plan for reaching that ambitious goal.

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President Continues Energy, Infrastructure Push in Wisconsin

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

His prepared remarks:

Remarks of President Barack Obama at Orion Energy Systems – As Prepared for Delivery

Let me begin by clearing something up. I have not come to Packer Country because I lost a bet.  Sunday was a tough day to be a Bears fan.  But even if it didn’t go the way I wanted, I’m glad we got to see one of the greatest rivalries in sports go another round. And so, in the spirit of sportsmanship, let me just say this: congratulations, and good luck in the Super Bowl.

Last night, I gave a speech some of you may have seen. And what I said was, in this new and challenging time, when America is facing tougher competition from countries around the world than ever before, we’re going to need to up our game. We’re going to need to go all in. We’re going to need to get serious about winning the future.

In the words of the man the Super Bowl trophy is named after: “There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that’s first place.”

That’s the kind of determination to win that America needs to show right now. That means making sure that all of our children are getting the best education possible – not only because we need to give every child a chance to fulfill her God-given potential, but because we need to make sure American workers can go head-to-head with every other country on Earth.

It means making sure our infrastructure can meet the demands of the 21st Century by rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, and connecting America and the American people with high-speed rail and high-speed Internet.

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Christie: I won't pay $271 Million For Dead ARC Tunnel

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Governor Christie's spokesman, Michael Drewniak, just emailed around the following statement. We'll have more soon, plus FTA response. (Yesterday, when asked about the ARC tunnel negotiations, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff--who'd just spoken at a transportation conference--looked like he'd swallowed several lemons whole.  He wouldn't comment. ) From the email:

Last night, New Jersey’s legal counsel filed its response to the Federal Transit Administration’s demand for $271 million in ARC transportation funding.  Attached is the submission filed electronically with the FTA on behalf of NJ Transit, as well as a fact sheet.

While the submission clearly sets out New Jersey’s case, pay particular attention to the four-page introduction, which aptly and succinctly describes why the State of New Jersey has no lawful or administrative obligation to repay any of the $271 million demanded by the FTA. The FTA overstates the funds that are even at issue and makes a demand for repayment that is far broader than authorized by statute.  Specifically:

Of the $271 million FTA demands, the vast majority -- $225.5 million -- consists of:

(1) funds that were expended prior to the execution of the August 2009 ESWA (Early Systems Work Agreements); and

(2) the State’s own formula funds that New Jersey was entitled to as a matter of right, and chose to apply to the Project.

The ESWA simply was not the source of these funds and the statute makes clear that these funds are not “Government payments made under the work agreement.”

As is by now abundantly clear, Governor Christie cancelled the project due to multi-billion dollar cost-overrun projections for a project that previously had an agreed upon price tag of $8.7 billion.  Billions in those cost overruns would have been borne by New Jersey  -- something unforeseen and entirely out of the state’s control, and a burden Governor Christie was not willing to place exclusively on New Jersey and its taxpayers.
Opposition to Demand

NJT’s Response To FTA’s Repayment Demand

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Obama heads to Wisconsin (!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

mock-up of the Milwaukee high-speed rail station

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) It caught our eye that -- a day after proposing a vast increase in high speed rail -- President Obama is heading to Wisconsin today, the state where the Governor won on a platform of no high speed rail. Coincidence? Mild Rebuke? Your thoughts, please.

Here's the press release:

President Obama – White House to Main Street Tour, Manitowoc, Wisconsin on Wednesday:

On Wednesday, January 26, 2011, President Barack Obama will take the “White House to Main Street Tour” to Manitowoc, WI, where he will continue his conversation with American families and workers about rebuilding an economy that ensures America’s long-term economic competitiveness and guarantees that America and its people continue to lead in the future.

The President will tour Orion Energy Systems, a power technology company that designs, manufactures and deploys energy efficiency and renewable energy technology for commercial and industrial business, and deliver remarks on the economy to employees. In 2004, Orion shifted their manufacturing operations to Manitowoc, WI where they now employ over 250 employees and anticipate growing to more than 300 employees by the end of 2011.

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Mica: Yeah. Maybe We Can

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Very mild rebuke from House T&I Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) to state of the union.

“After the Administration derailed a major six-year transportation bill in 2009, it is encouraging that they are now on board with getting infrastructure projects and jobs moving again. However, just another proposal to spend more of the taxpayers’ money, when we have billions of dollars sitting idle tied up in government red tape, will never get our economic car out of the ditch.

“We’ve got to do more with less to improve our infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Compare this to Rep. Ryan's (below).

We'll be posting audio of Mica in a bit.

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GOP Response: It's Only So-Called "Investment"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisconsin) response to the State of the Union:

"Whether sold as "stimulus" or repackaged as "investment," their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much.

"And during the last two years, that is exactly what we have gotten — along with record deficits and debt — to the point where the President is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit.

"We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end."

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