Statement of Senator Alfonse D'Amato
ISTEA Reauthorization
April 7, 1997

Mr. Chairman, let me join in welcoming you to New York to this historic building, and to take the testimony on this most historic legislation that is about to be and hopefully will be reauthorized. ISTEA 1991 was probably one of the best pieces of legislation authored by Senator Moynihan as it relates to transit needs, particularly in urban areas.

It recognizes that the congested areas of America, the metropolitan areas, have unique problems. It recognizes that by making prudent investments we can get people to use mass transportation, not only eliminating much of the traffic, but also the pollution that we are concerned about.

I look forward to cosponsoring what I think is a wonderful bill, the bill which Senator Moynihan, Senator Lieberman, and Senator Lautenberg are introducing, that is the ISTEA legislation which will protect the formulas which are so important.

Need is the basic criterion by which we attempt to operate on the Federal system. It is not per capita. It is not who has the most people, but where is the need for a particular program.

I know some of my colleagues are saying, "Well, we want to take the gas money and distribute it on certain formulas with no relation or little relationship to need as it relates to mass transportation." Why, I suggest that there are various areas of the country that have certain unique needs that New York has little for as it relates to building great hydropower systems and dams, etc., and we have over the years financed them.

Indeed, Senator Moynihan has put forth and does every year a very interesting analysis as it relates to the amount of taxes collected and paid by New York residents per capita to the Federal Treasury. I must say that, while we collect a lot of money and send it down to Washington, we generally get back about $17 to $18 billion a year less than what we pay.

So if we were going to run everything on per capita, I'd take that. We'd get about $18 billion more.

So I'm just suggesting we had better be pretty careful if we are going to continue the unique Federal relationship between States and Federal Government and look to need.

We have 30 percent of the mass transit users nationwide -- 30 percent -- and we get about 18 percent of the funding.

So I want to thank my dear friend and chairman for holding this very important hearing, because this is critical to our tri-State region, the ISTEA reauthorization. It is critical in moving hundreds and hundreds of thousands, probably 400,000 people that I can think of, or close to that, on just two lines, the Long Island Railroad and the Metro North. I think the Long Island Railroad moves close to 200,000; Metro North slightly less. But we're talking about lots and lots of people.

So when I begin to hear this business we ought to be guaranteed so much back from the gas tax, maybe we should author legislation we want to be guarantied so much back from the basic dollars we send to Washington. Let's get right to it. Give us back 95 percent of the money we send down there. We could do away with all these formulas.

But that's not the way we have been operating this country. We have been operating on the basis of need.