If you haven’t already read it somewhere, the Petri/Johnson amendment to save federal funding for bicycle projects fell 29-27 in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee vote today.
Representatives Frank LoBiondo (R-NY), Tom Petri (R-WI) and Tim Johnson (R-IL) were the 3 Republicans who withstood major pressure from the chairman and leadership, and turned down deals rather than give up their support for cycling. If you are in Congressman Petri’s district, please thank him for his staunch support of cycling.
Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) from Neenah, who is also on the T&I Committee voted NO on the amendment, despite having received a number of phone calls and emails from constituents asking him to support the amendment by fellow Wisconsin Republican Tom Petri.
The Democrats on the committee made a huge effort to get all their members in the room to help, but even with a full house, we would have needed at least one more Republican vote to carry the amendment. Given this was a leadership priority, a whipped vote and the outright partisan hostility in the room during the mark-up session, it is a great credit to the principles of Congressman Petri and his co-sponsors that we were able to get a bi-partisan amendment to begin with.
This is, of course, not the end of the battle, yet. The House version of the transportation bill has many things even other Republicans don’t like about it and it must be reconciled with the Senate version of the bill, which is very different. The Senate drafted a two-year transportation bill that retained funding for bicycle programs, while the House bill is a five-year bill.
The House bill also tries to fill the $60 billion funding gap in proposed spending and estimated gas tax revenues by creating new taxes from future oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and from future offshore wells. Even if the House were to get its oil tax revenues on the as of yet non-existing wells, the bi-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that might possibly generate a measly $5 billion over ten years.
The fiscally irresponsible nature of this speculative bill sweetener has not been lost on even stalwart supporters of drilling for domestic oil, like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the former chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe said the House shouldn’t be using drilling to pay for highways. “You can’t very well use revenues you don’t have,” he said last week.
Stay tuned here to this blog for more updates on future strategies. We have a conference call with other national bicycle advocates tonight at 8pm to discuss the next steps. In the meantime, remember that no state or local funds (outside of Madison) are currently dedicated to bicycle programs or infrastructure. If you want to build a trail in your community, you should come to the Wisconsin Bike Summit Feb. 21st and let your elected officials know that you bike, you vote and continued investments in cycling have a high rate of return.
Thanks to our cycling super hero, Rep. Tom Petri