|Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said a new formula for rural transit is needed so that states with smaller populations like Wyoming are not left behind.
Enzi addressed the need to provide adequate transit funding for all states today at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the reauthorization of the federal transit program. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta testified at the hearing.
Enzi discussed the possibility of establishing an annual minimum dollar figure per state, for which a minimum of $5 million has been suggested.
"We need a small-state minimum for both the rural transit and the elderly and disabled program. Small-state minimums are common for a number of formula-based programs, because certain costs are present regardless of location. A little can go a long way in these small states," said Enzi.
Enzi's complete statement follows.
Statement of U.S. Senator Mike Enzi
Transit in SAFETEA
Banking Hearing on the Administration's Proposal for the
Reauthorization of the Federal Transit Program
June 10, 2003
Because Wyoming is a rural state it will probably never be the main focus of a transit program. Despite our small population, however, we have very real transit needs that must be addressed. Unfortunately, the current funding distribution model for transit programs leaves behind states with smaller populations, like Wyoming.
This year Wyoming entities received approximately $5.1 million in transit funds. That equals approximately seven one hundredths of 1 percent of the transit program.
Of those funds, 50 percent came from a $2.5 million one time allocation from the discretionary bus program, because of the fine work of Chairman Shelby in the Appropriations Committee. I did want to acknowledge and express my appreciation for your efforts on that matter, Mr. Chairman.
Unfortunately, the Administration proposes in SAFETEA to end this critical program, which may result in even fewer dollars for Wyoming.
Although there will be an overall increase for rural programs, it does little to ease my concerns about the need to provide adequate transit funding for all of the states. Simply throwing more money in the pot will not yield the results we are hoping to achieve. Rather, I fear it will produce some big winners and some big losers. Although each state may receive the same percentage increase, that won't help states like Wyoming that start out with only seven one hundredths (7/100) of 1 percent of the transit budget.
Last year Senator Allard brought in a witness from rural Colorado who recommended a minimum of $5 million per state annually for the rural transit program. I agree with that kind of approach to this problem. We need a small-state minimum for both the rural transit and the elderly and disabled program. Small-state minimums are common for a number of formula-based programs, because certain costs are present regardless of location. A little can go a long way in these small states.
That is why I cosponsored legislation last year, S. 2884, to address the distribution scheme. We had a dozen members on that bill, including Senators Allard, Crapo, Johnson and Hagel, who are on this committee. It was a good bipartisan effort to address rural issues at very modest cost.
I am pleased we are taking a closer look at these issues in this hearing today because rural states have transit needs too and the current rural formula does not work for states like Wyoming. We need more van pools and other systems to help seniors and disabled and others in small communities. In addition, we also have to find ways to get seniors, disabled individuals and other community members more strongly connected to the world beyond their city limits.
I was pleased to learn the Administration included in its proposal a section on intermodal transportation. Intermodal transportation will be particularly beneficial for folks in rural areas who have limited access to air and rail transportation. Connecting these systems will provide some real efficiencies that will save both travelers and the government real money.
I look forward to working with you, Mr. Chairman, on the Committee's bill and on the problems I have outlined today. I will be vigilant, as will we all, because transit projects are very important to both rural and urban America. Both should be better off after we pass this bill and I have every confidence that they will.