Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona on June 29, 1973 · Page 75
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June 29, 1973

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Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona · Page 75

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Phoenix, Arizona
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Friday, June 29, 1973
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Page 75
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B*18 the Arizona Republic JPhoenlx, Friday, June 29, rises transit financing '' Washington Post Service 'J WASHINGTON - the pres- ^sure on deadlocked Hbuse- Scnate conferees to report out a new federal aid highway 'bill before the current one expires Saturday is strengthening the p os i t i o n of mass ; transit forces in the conference. This is a dramatic change /•since the conferees began six .weeks ago. '< First, nearly 30 states are running out of federal high- k .way money and are anxiously I awaiting a new authorization. ; Second, the highway lobby l[fears that contruction proj- rects could come to a stand\ 'Still if a new bill is not re- j ported out. x l< Third, the fuel shortage, j "which is expected to worsen it'as the summer goes on, and ;*'the strict controls just laid *down by the Environmental "Protection Agency, make it 'j 'difficult to defend spending a i.fgreat deal of money to build ,.. more highways. ;.C When the conferees started out, the prospect of conces- ' • sions to mass transit was •dim. The Senate bill's, amend; ment by Sen. Edmund Mus,; kie, D-Maine, and Sen. How; ard Baker, R-Tenn., opening > up the highway trust fund for ; mass transit use had been ; | adopted by a narrow five-vote ' margin. The House had rejected a similar amendment i by 25 votes and had provided i 1 for mass transit funding j ^through general revenues grather than the gas, tire and mghway users taxes, which pnake up the Highway Trust • Fund. ;".., Mass transit advocates won I ;a major point when a majority of senators in favor of the S Muskie-Baker amendment I were appointed to the confer• ence committee, but even so '.lit was assumed that the ~House conferees had the up- 'per hand. 'i.. Only two of the nine. House I members could be said tofa- j>Vor mass transit, and they •-had a strong argument in —claiming they were not . • against mass transit, just • against breaking . the trust ;fund. In addition, House con; ferees traditionally have more j <time to give to a conference ' ,and are better versed in the ; details of the bill, since sen- i ators serve on many com- ;-mittees and their interests I are diffuse. i But as the conference i dragged on and the fuel crisis ' gained headlines, the senators, 'while conceding many minor points, showed no inclination to make a large concession on the major point. The momentum shifted. After weeks of proposals and counter-proposals, the senators last week came in with what they termed "a final offer." .: It provided that 20 per cent of the federal gasoline tax collected in each state should be turned back to the state to .use as it wished — including building rail mass transit facilities. This amounted to about $800 million a year, roughly the sum authorized for urban systems in the original bills. About $588 million of the sum would be earmarked for urban areas, with the rest going •to rural areas. In addition, $800 million would be reduced from the urban and rural trust fund money authorized Jn the original bills. * The conferees could also Jyote to break up in disagree••merit and start all over in vtheir respective public works Committees. •V * Or, someone in either the ••House or Senate could move ^to instruct the conferees to 'adopt a particular position tand the move, if passed, Jwould be binding on the conferees. I The House conferees countered with their own proposal ito allow $100 million of the 'trust fund to be used for onass transit in the form of Abuses, but the senators angrily rejected this, saying it was )ip concession at ail. i Now the conferees have loiily until the July 4 congressional recess to work out a jiew compromise. • I If they don't, a number of jcourses are open. .'i The Senate has already /passed an interim resolution funding the highway program for four more nionths at current levels. 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