Janet Babin, Host, WNYC News
Janet Babin is a host and reporter at WNYC.
At least three New York City Republicans are expressing reservations about their party's transportation bill. The legislation would stop funding mass transit through a federal gasoline tax for the first time in about three decades.
Instead, it would provide mass transit with a $40 billion dollar one time grant. Opponents argue the change could cost the New York area $1 billion in lost funds.
Where the $40 billion grant money would come from is unclear, leading to a host of denunciations from Congressional Democrats, editorial boards and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Secretary LaHood, a Republican, dubbed the legislation "the worst transportation bill" in decades.
Republican Congressman Bob Turner (NY-09), who won a narrow special election to succeed Congressman Anthony Wiener earlier this year, could vote against his party’s bill. Turner said in a statement he's concerned about how transportation funds will be allocated. Turner said, "it’s imperative that the necessary funding mechanism" be in place to maintain and improve the transportation needs of the nation’s largest metropolitan population center.
“I will not support any bill that does not allow New York City to sufficiently meet those needs," Turner said.
A spokeswoman for Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm (NY-13) said the congressman is still reviewing the bill but "has concerns about it," and is working to amend it. She did not mention specifically the issues Grimm had with the legislation.
Additionally, Hudson Valley Representative Nan Hayworth (NY-19) said in a statement that she too, has concerns about the bill.
Proponents of the legislation say drivers should not subsidize mass transit.
Opponents of the bill counter it would drastically reduce the amount of funds available for subway, bus and train riders.
MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, a Republican, said projects like the Second Avenue subway and the Fulton Street Transit Center would be in jeopardy if the bill moves forward in its current form.
The Transportation bill puts many area Republican lawmakers between a rock and a hard place: no doubt many of their constituents commute to the city for work, yet they’re likely eager to remain loyal to the party, which supports the bill.
Several Republicans who live in areas with a large commuting population — Leonard Lance (NJ-07), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11), Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chris Gibson (NY-20) and Pete King (NY-03) — failed to return calls and emails seeking comment.
Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler says he has bipartisan support for an amendment that would restore mass transit's funding stream in the bill. He'll introduce that to the House Rules Committee on Monday.
The House could vote on the bill as early as Wednesday. The Senate is developing a competing version of the bill.