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Transportation Policy

New House Jobs Bill Dominated by Aid to Cities

Soon after the Senate signed off
yesterday on a $150 billion package of tax extenders and unemployment
benefits that was promoted as a job-creation measure -- a bill that
lacked dedicated new funding for transportation -- Democrats on the
House education and labor committee were releasing their own jobs legislation.

The
House proposal also lacks specific infrastructure funding, but its
structure reflects a shift that could hearten urban planners and other
advocates for a more city-centric approach to federal transportation
funding. Three-quarters of the bill's estimated $100 billion in aid
would go directly to cities and counties to help avert layoffs of
firefighters, police, and other workers.

Mayors had pressed for more transportation stimulus spending to go directly to cities but lost
the political battle, as the lion's share of the $48 billion in road
and transit aid in last year's recovery package was diverted through
state DOTs. Many urban governments anticipate
budget shortfalls in 2010 that could exceed those at the height of the
financial crisis, with transit cuts and delays in infrastructure
projects looming as consequences of the cash crunch.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the education and labor panel's chairman, told Roll Call yesterday that he hopes mayors will use their political leverage to help the bill move forward in the Senate.

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