House Republicans aren’t known for their well-reasoned spending proposals lately, but they took it to a new level today by sending President Obama a $375 billion budget-cutting plan that slices $1 billion from bicycle and pedestrian programs.
The cuts have next to no chance of moving forward, given that Republicans are out of power in the White House and Congress. But they amount to the next step in the GOP’s political rebuilding process. Which begs the question: Does the party really want to stake its future on cutting Safe Routes to School?
The House GOP plan suggests that Obama save $183 million per year by eliminating federal participation in the program, which just last month was strongly endorsed for re-authorization by two Republican senators.
House Republicans argue that helping children walk or bike to school has "traditionally been viewed as" the task of local governments. Presumably, dedicated federal funding for kids’ safety amounts to creeping Big Government for the GOP — but dedicated federal funding for kids’ health care, now that’s just fine.
Other transportation proposals on the Republican chopping block today were the $25 million in bike and pedestrian funding given to four communities in the 2005 transportation bill and the U.S. DOT’s Transportation Enhancements initiative, which currently costs $833 million annually.
Margo Pedroso, deputy director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, was unruffled by the House GOP proposal (which took the form of a letter to Obama rather than a bill):
impact that Safe Routes to School initiatives can have on children’s physical
activity levels, traffic safety and congestion, air quality around schools, and
school budgets, we are confident that Safe Routes to School has bipartisan
support in Congress.
Late Update: Despite the House GOP’s proposal, Republican Sen. Richard Burr (NC) is not budging from his support for expanding the federal Safe Routes program. Burr said through a spokeswoman that
I would certainly be
disappointed in funding cuts for this program, as I am seeking to increase
funds within the Safe Routes to School Program Reauthorizations Act. This
program is beneficial for all Americans because it promotes activity and helps
ensure children are able to get to school safely. In North Carolina, this
program builds safe routes across the state, and I’m confident the
program will do just as much good across the country.