The Highway Trust Fund, long an essential funding vehicle for both federal roads and mass transit systems, is under attack by some House Republicans seeking to strip protections from mass transit employees.
The Highway Trust Fund is used to fund major transportation networks, including mass transit systems, and is facing a budget shortfall. Currently, 16% of the Highway Trust Fund goes towards mass transit systems, a critical component of the funding keeping America’s largest cities, and their commuter rails, functioning. Those properties which would be affected by cutting commuter rail funding include LA Transit, Chicago Metra, the Long Island Rail Road, Metro North, New Jersey Transit and SEPTA to name a few.
However, this has not stopped the brazen attacks of rural House Republicans in attempting to reduce, or entirely eliminate, funding for mass transit systems from the Highway Trust Fund, in part because of the workplace protections under 13(c) afforded to transit workers as a result of that funding. This common sense protection for those employees who keep the public mass transit systems of this country running is now under attack. One bill, HR 146, would impose draconian cuts to non-highway programs such as commuter rails. Another bill, HR 1551, would totally eliminate the entire mass transit account by 2020.
An additional bill, H.R. 1711, proposed by Rep. Mark Meadows, (R-NC) would outright repeal commuter rail workers’ 13(c) protections. However, of the eleven co-sponsors of the bill, the majority have only served in Congress since 2011, a lack of experience exemplified in its original sponsor, as Rep. Meadows only started serving in the House in 2013. This lack of experience represents a fundamental lack of understanding of the critical importance of commuter rail systems, and our members who operate them.
“TCU is firmly opposed to legislation of this kind, which seeks to eviscerate the protections afforded to its members,” said TCU Vice-President and National Legislative Director Ron Kloos. “We will fight to ensure the continued rights of public sector mass transit workers are protected.”