The Michigan legislature has begun debate on the 2010-11 state budget.
Today the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation took testimony on public transit and specifically invited TRU to testify. Michigan Capitol building I was joined by the Michigan Public Transit Association, SMART, MassTrans, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and Flint's MTA in speaking out for increased transit investment.
I used the opportunity to make two specific asks:
* Hold transit harmless, not stealing any money from transit to fill gaps in the general fund budget
* Increase transit revenue with a small increase in the gas tax and vehicle registration fees
While there are many reasons why transit funding is vital, I focused on a few key reasons:
Transit is a vital resource for struggling families to save money and for workers to get to scarce jobs.
Transit can and should be used by strapped cities to save money on employee cars and parking.
Transit can draw enormous federal investment, if we invest at the state and local levels (see last week's e-newsletter).
Transit can attract enormous private investment, with a 700% return on investment (according to updated studies).
Michigan can never win the race to the bottom, out competing Mississippi, Mexico, and China for lowest taxes and wages. Instead we should compete with Illinois and Minnesota for high skill workers and great infrastructure.
In addition to defending existing funding and fighting for increased funding, the other vital issue before the legislature is the creation of a Regional Transit Authority. As I've expressed many times before, these are the next two key issues that must be addressed to improve transit.