MPTA Panelists Share Common Message

DSC00769The Missouri Public Transit Association held its annual conference August 10-12, 2009 at the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks at the Tan-Tar-A Resort. One of the sessions that engages members is the federal/state policy panel held during the Monday luncheon. This year, special guests included Art Guzzetti, Director of Policy for the American Public Transportation Association, Peter Henry, US Senator Christopher Bond’s office, Gary Marble, Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer’s office, and Mike Winter, MPTA’s state legislative consultant. The session was facilitated by Bill Brown, Spectrum Consulting Group, who is MPTA’s federal legislative consultant.

After introductions, Bill asked Mike Winter to provide a general overview of the state’s economic climate. Mike reported that the federal stimulus funds will fill some holes; however, July revenues are down by 7.5% from last year and are a full one percent lower than anticipated – causing an ongoing revenue loss for the state. Currently, state agencies have implemented a 3 percent withhold, with some taking an additional 10 percent withhold. Obviously, the budget crisis is the dominant issue at the State Capitol. Coupled with the economic stresses, term limits will be creating the largest turnover in the Legislature in history, with upwards of 70 new House members. “Ongoing discussions on a total transportation package are more essential than ever, but will be a challenge during a period of strict fiscal constraint.”
Gary Marble stressed that communication with federal and state officials is essential. “Transportation is a huge part of the energy dialogue at the national level – transportation accounts for one-third of green house gas emissions in the US, but public transit is absent in the bill. Transit can save emissions by shifting the transportation model from personal vehicles to public transportation.”
Art Guzzetti and Peter Henry shared perspectives from APTA and US Senator Bonds office, with the primary message from all panelists being one of communication. Now, more than ever, is the time to communicate with federal and state legislators on policy reform and funding issues surrounding public transportation.