Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Lame Duck Session

We've just begun the Lame Duck session of Congress where the very important reauthorization of the TEA-21 Bill may take place.

In characteristic mode, the Congress has waffled on the reauthorization for the better part of the year in an effort to avoid bringing out into the open differences between Bush--who wants to limit funding for the reauthorication--and his comrades in Congress who look to the highway and transit bill as a way to bring home the pork.

As a result of this indecision, projects are on hold throughout the country as states and municipalities wait to see what the figures for federal matching dollars are going to look like.

The reauthorization of TEA-21 got little discussion during the Presidential campaign. Although I did find this brief quote from Bush in early September:
"There will be a highway bill, and just want to make sure that the highway bill honors the Highway Trust Fund. The Highway Trust Fund is set up so that we use the money from the gasoline tax and not general revenues. And I think it's very important that we guard that aspect of the trust, keep the trust of the trust fund. (Applause.) And that's why we're having the discussions we're having, and you know, we'll see if we can get a bill done."

It's certainly reassuring to see that he's put so much time in thinking about this bill. You have to love the applause line: "keep the trust of the trust fund"!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Tea-21 Reauthorization

Tea-21 is the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. It is the major highway & public transit bill that guides federal funding. This is a massive spending bill that will have immense impact on how metropolitan areas develop transportation projects for the next 6 years or so.

Tea-21 expired in Sept. 2003 and has been living on through periodic extensions over the past 13 months. Both the Senate and House of Representatives passed versions of the reauthorization bill earlier this year; but due to discrepancies between the two bills and President Bush's insistence that it not be too generous, Congress has pretty much avoided dealing with it until after the election.

Well, the election is over and The Pottsdown Mercury reports that Congress will be taking up the bill in the veto session.

This is far from certain since it is an immense pork-barrel bill & many new members may want to get a piece of the federal funding pie.

The outcome of this bill will be significant for cities and suburbs as many infrastructure projects involve acquiring these federal matching funds. Powerful members of Congress can also push through pet projects that can have a significant impact on the metropolitan form.

We will be following Congressional action on this bill in the coming months.

Here is another article showing how Westville, NJ is having to put the breaks on downtown redevelopment because of Congressional inaction.

US Presidential Election

The recent US Presidential election continued a trend of geographical bi-polarization that developed in earnest during the 2000 election. Most of the focus in the media regarding the geographic divide has been at the state level (i.e. "Red" Republican states in the South and West vs. the Northeast, West Coast and Upper Midwest for the Democrats).

A closer analysis shows that the suburbs are the real site for explaining which way states vote.

In the next few weeks we will provide analysis of several metropolitan areas throughout the US, comparing central cities & their suburbs to explain results in key states.

In the meantime, here is an interesting analysis of suburban voting in Oregon.