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New York Republicans May Defect on Transportation Bill

Friday, February 10, 2012 - 05:30 PM

(photo by: Flickr user: See-ming Lee)

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.

But exactly where the money for that grant would come from is unclear, leading to a host of denunciations from Congressional Democrats, editorial boards,  and US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, himself a Republican, who dubbed the legislation "the worst transportation bill" in decades.  The opponents say the bill could cost the New York area $1 billion in lost funds.

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 the specific issues Grimm had with the legislation.

A spokesman for Hudson Valley Republican Nan Hayworth also express doubts about the bill in its current form.

And Congressman Jerrold Nadler says he has bi-partisan support for an amendment that would restore mass transit's funding stream. He says he'll introduce the amendment Monday.

Proponents of the legislation say drivers should not subsidize mass transit.  But opponents of the bill said 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 Senate is developing a competing version of the bill.

The Transportation bill puts many area Republican lawmakers between a rock and an hard place:   over 50 percent of the region's commuters use transit to get to work, but  their party leadership is pushing another way.

Republicans Leonard Lance (NJ-07), Scott Garrett (NJ-05), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11), and Chris Smith (NJ-04) failed to return calls and emails seeking comment.

In New York, Chris Gibson (NY-20), and Pete King (NY-03) also did not respond to requests for comment.

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