A proposal backed by Republican leadership in Congress would remove money from the federal gasoline tax that now goes to public-transit systems, including the MBTA.
The Republican proposal would put the money that now goes to mass transit - under a law enacted under Ronald Reagan - into road repair and construction. Republicans claim they would then try to win passage of a one-time $40-billion appropriation over five years for subways, commuter rail and bus services, but have yet to say how they would actually pay for that.
According to the MBTA, the regional transportation system received $224 million in federal grants this year (and is required to match 20% of that). State transportation officials are currently conducting hearings on proposals to drastically cut commuter-rail and bus service and raise fares at least 35% to make up a $161 million deficit anticipated for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
At issue is not just immediate funding, but long-term capital projects, whose interest costs depend in part on assurances of reliable long-term revenues, according to transit officials in the Chicago area, who have been particularly vocal in opposing the measure - but who also have some districts represented by Republicans. Congressmen in New York also opposed the proposal.