Statement of Gov. George Pataki
State of New York
ISTEA Reauthorization
April 7, 1997

ISTEA is an historic and effective approach to national transportation policy. Its basic principles of shared responsibility for national transportation interests among Federal, State, and local agencies, the encouragement of public participation in the planning process, and the promotion of environmentally sound intermodal transportation projects must be retained.

ISTEA represents a dramatic shift in the way the Federal Government finances transportation improvements, recognizes how inter-dependent the States' economies are, and contains flexible programs to benefit the entire Nation as a whole.

Senators, I congratulate you. ISTEA has worked for the Nation and it has worked for New York. The programs embedded in the existing law must be continued with some streamlining that will make this good law even better.

The needs-based formulas in ISTEA should be continued with some updating to reflect modern factors. State, local governments, and regional organizations have invested significant time and resources implementing this landmark legislation, and we have made it work.

ISTEA does not need a major overhaul. The ISTEA reauthorization proposal cosponsored by Senators Moynihan, Chafee, Lautenberg, and Lieberman, which keeps the innovative programs intact and updates allocation formulas, is the right approach and one New York State strongly supports.

Past investments in transportation infrastructure have failed to provide improved safety and mobility, promote interstate commerce, and enhance the environment.

The Federal Government must continue to be a strong partner with the States to assure that these investments are not wasted as a result of a diminished Federal commitment to the Nation's infrastructure.

Let me emphasize that a continued Federal role does not remove or lessen the responsibility that States have in utilizing State assets to maintain and improve our own transportation systems.

I point proudly to the high level of effort in New York State. New York State is currently implementing a five-year capital program which will invest $24 billion -- $12 billion for highways and $12 billion for mass transit -- in our transportation system.

In New York, 75 percent of our transportation capital program and 60 percent of our highway and bridge capital program is funded with State and local funds, the highest level of State and local effort in the Nation. We are not asking you to do something for us that we have not committed to do for ourselves. We simply want your continued help.

Certain States are allocating Federal funds be based on gasoline tax. This is wrong. Where the funds are raised should not be the major consideration in distributing funds to rehabilitate roads, to replace deficient bridges, replace deteriorated public transportation equipment, or reduce congestion and provide cleaner air.

Distributing Federal transportation dollars primarily based on where the gas tax is collected is simply devolution in disguise, and it's the first step towards eliminating the Federal role in transportation funding.

If we're simply going to give the States back the taxes generated in those States, why is there a Federal role necessary at all, and why do we have a Federal policy? The next step would be to eliminate that Federal role and lose the national benefit that has come from programs like ISTEA.

Opponents don't recognize that transportation systems do not end at the State line, and therefore the Federal Government must play an important role in ensuring that the Nation's transportation network operates effectively and efficiently. And this is particularly true in some of the more rural States of America where, if it were left simply to the taxes raised by some of those rural States, they could not have the necessary mass transit or Federal interstate highway system necessary so that we can get from one region of the country to the other.

There is a critical Federal role, and that Federal role would be obviated if we simply went and gave back to the States what was raised within those States.

I realize that some will claim that New York and other States support ISTEA because we're receiving more in Federal transportation funding than we collect in gasoline taxes; however, as Senator D'Amato pointed out, the JFK School study from Harvard that Senator Moynihan has had done every year shows that New York State sends $18 billion more to the Federal Government than it receives each year.

You cannot in fairness take one program and say that New York does disproportionately well in this program and thus should lose funds without looking at the totality of what we do to support the Federal Government and the Federal programs. ISTEA should not be allowed to be isolated and separated in that way.

New York, due to its older infrastructure and colder weather, has greater transportation needs than States with warmer climates or more modern infrastructure. In fact, many of New York's bridges were built in the 19th century, and we talked about the Brooklyn Bridge, which was built at a time when there were only 38 States in the Union.

Today, as I indicated, that bridge still carries tens of thousands of people a day into the city, helping generate the commerce and the tax revenues that support the Federal Government.

Proposals that base funding distribution on gas tax collections would also penalize New York State for a strong transit program, which is a major contributor to achieving Federal transportation, air quality, and energy goals. Their approach would punish those States that emphasize good public transportation by reducing Federal aid, contrary to the national policy that encourages the use of public transportation.

New York State is undoubtedly the most intermodal State in the Nation. It is home to one-third of the Nation's transit riders on systems that range from the massive New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority right here to one- or two-bus rural transit systems that provide critical mobility in the rural parts of our State.

Over 6.7 million people enter the Manhattan central business district each day, 2.3 million by auto and 4.4 million by mass transit.

New York's transportation system is not just important to New York; in fact, over 450,000 from neighboring States come to Manhattan to earn their living. But just think of it: 4.4 million people a day coming here by mass transit, and those from out of the State, alone, making 900,000 interstate trips, enough to fill 70 freeway lanes.

In the northeast we face the dual problems of congestion and pollution, but we're finding they can be tackled simultaneously. ISTEA has helped us to improve air quality and the environment. The law established the innovative CMAQ program to help meet air quality standards in many of our large cities and to help maintain air quality improvements that have been made over the last six years in other communities.

Let me briefly discuss an equity issue that affects New York and many other States, and this is something that Senator Moynihan has brought to the attention of Congress time and again.

An important part of ISTEA was the fulfillment of a promise made 40 years ago by Congress to repay States that constructed interstate highways without Federal funds. While many southern and western States benefitted from 90 percent Federal funding, other States in the northeast and midwest had already built much of their interstate network with local funds.

Congress knew of this, and in 1956 called for a study to see the cost, to reimburse States for donating those segments to the interstate. Through the efforts of Senator Moynihan, Senator D'Amato, and others, ISTEA has begun this repayment.

Congress must not back away from this commitment. The Federal promise to those States must be kept in the reauthorization of ISTEA. This is our equity program.

New York is one of 17 States belonging to the ISTEA Works Coalition. This broad-based Coalition involves States from every part of the United States that support retaining the core programs, including the bridges program, the congestion mitigation and air quality, CMAQ program, the interstate reimbursement program, and continuing the Federal commitment to improving public transit.

The Coalition also supports maintaining the Federal Government's role as a key transportation partner to help fund highway, bridge, and transit projects, as well as to provide a national focus on related national goals, such as improved air quality, economic competitiveness, and improved quality of life.

While I can sympathize with the desire of other States to increase Federal funding for their States, robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the answer. New York and the northeast have documented transportation needs and have been willing to raise State and local funds to help pay for these needs. The FHA has a report that compares the level of State and local effort of the 50 States. New York has the highest level of effort, while many of the so-called "donor States" are among the lowest.

Our level of effort creates to a 96-cent gasoline tax. If you combine the highway tolls, the fares that people pay, the bridge tolls, our level compares to a 96-cent gasoline tax. Delaware is the second State, with a 61-cent comparison, and Georgia, one of the most vocal of the so-called "donor States," is last at 12 cents. A State like Connecticut, which also has the high level of effort, highest gas tax in the Nation, should not be forced to raise its gas tax further to offset Federal funds that would be transferred to those States with a low level of effort.

Let me just summarize in closing here, Senators, that ISTEA has worked. It's supported by 17 governors, the League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the American Public Works Association, the metropolitan planning organizations, transit systems, environmental groups, and many, many others.

When you go back to Washington and make the critical decisions facing Congress and this country, you, of course, represent your States. But, Senator Warner, you said the most important thing, that while you represent your States and your regions, the national interest must come first. Reauthorizing ISTEA as is presently constituted is not just in the interest of New York and the northeast, it is in the national interest and should be achieved by Congress this year.

Thank you very much.