House GOP Urges Elimination of (GOP-Backed) Kid Safety Program

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.

crosswalkphoto.jpgOne hopes that crossing guard in orange isn’t a House GOPer. (Photo: CA DOT)

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):

Given the
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.

  • Good gosh, even more shocking than the SR2S cuts, is the proposal to cut the ENTIRE Transportation enhancements program! I know they think that ‘no one bikes’ and ‘bikes aren’t transportation,’ but that’s a pretty big program with a lot of support.

  • Mark

    I’m all for encouraging Safe Routes to Schools, but really, isn’t it a local issue? It never made sense to me to collect taxes from each municipality and county and then return it — minus a good chunk for administration — for purely local needs (this goes far beyond Safe Routes). So I would support cutting this from the FEDERAL budget so long as they also reduce federal taxes proportionately and let localities use these funds themselves. Not likely to happen, I know.

  • Mark

    Let me add that this proposal does come down very hard on “non-motorized transportation.” They could save much more by cutting some unnecessary DOD programs and eliminating Medicare fraud.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I’m all for encouraging Safe Routes to Schools, but really, isn’t it a local issue? It never made sense to me to collect taxes from each municipality and county and then return it — minus a good chunk for administration — for purely local needs.”

    I agree — as long as road spending is added to the list.

    Let’s get universal health care. People work and pay taxes elsewhere, then come to NYC for Medicaid-funded care when they are sick. People move. Infrastructure doesn’t. Take health care off the backs of state and local government, and we can pay for our own. That would help pay for universal health care in itself.

  • Wow, the GOP really is turning into the caricature “The Simpsons” make them out to be.

  • Brent

    “I’m all for encouraging Safe Routes to Schools, but really, isn’t it a local issue?”

    It’s exactly the federally funded roads that are the biggest impediment to safe bicycling & walking.

    And even more than that, federal transportation policy over the past 60 years that has been responsible for creating not only the whole network for major roads that are completely incompatible with bicycling & walking but also the funding & decision-making atmosphere where it becomes “easier” and “cheaper” to encourage the type of sprawled development where Johnny actually can’t (safely or, because of distance, practically) walk to school.

    Keep in mind that state and federal highways are largely funded by federal funds and these roads themselves are often huge impediments to safe bicycling & walking. Think of small rural towns that have a road like U.S. 40 as their main street–likely with homes, schools, & businesses lining it all the way. In a town like that you can’t go anywhere by foot or bicycle without going on or across U.S. 40.

    But, more than that, you have to remember that federal transportation funding reaches far beyond U.S. & state highways. Federal STP funds are available at an 80/20 match for projects on essentially any street that is designated arterial or collector. That means any road that is not simply a local or neighborhood street.

    So in short the priorities and procedures of federal transportation funding have exactly gotten us into this mess where most all of our cities, from large to small, are very unfriendly for bicycling & walking.

    So programs like SRTS are indeed a bit of a bandaid and what is really needed is reforming the system to remove the incentives for unhealthy development.

    But in the meanwhile at least we have a few small bandaids here & there that are starting, in a small way, to address some of the problems created by 75 years of disfunctional federal transportation spending.

    And even if the federal system is reformed right now, you’re still going to need the bandaid because there will still be that 75 years worth of bad roads and bad design to try to fix up somehow.

  • A good rundown of the different types of federal transportation funding & how and where it can be spent is here:

    http://www.cogcnv.org/PDF/LRTP/Appendix_B.pdf

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