Rep. Barbara Comstock Introduces Grants for Reliable, Efficient, and Accountable Transit Act
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA) released the following statement after she introduced the Grants for Reliable, Efficient, and Accountable Transit Act:
“This Metro reform legislation is an update to legislation I introduced last year to address issues plaguing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and recognizes progress made on the state level. The bipartisan efforts by the jurisdictions should serve as further impetus on the federal level to reauthorize federal funding for METRO, but only on the condition of continued needed financial changes. This legislation still incorporates many of the reforms recommended by a wide array of experts engaged with Metro management and reforms including former officials, business leaders, and Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld. The reforms are reflective of their advice and a final push to get our system the rest of the way out of the woods.
The bill includes the following funding and reform:
• The federal grant program, PRIIA, will be reauthorized providing $1.5 billion over 10 years that will be matched with $500 million from each of the jurisdictions: Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. as universally supported in the region.
• This bill will provide whistleblower protections for WMATA employees against WMATA management, similar to federal whistleblower protections along with new whistleblower protections for those same employees from union leaders as recommended by former WMATA employees who have been whistleblowers.
• Reduce long-term liabilities by transitioning personnel from defined benefit to defined contribution plans while respecting the commitments made to those who already are receiving pensions as recommended by Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s recommendation.
• Limit annual contributions from funding jurisdictions for operations to not more than 3 percent to subsidize operational needs of the Authority, consistent with reforms made on the state level by the General Assembly in Richmond.
• The bill will amend certain language (aka, the Wolf Act) to narrow the focus of arbitrators when WMATA Management has a labor dispute with the unions, arbitrators have argued the language is too loose so they always have to rule in favor of the unions as was the case in the most recent arbitration award, which is expected to cost $82 million.
I would like to thank again all those who have provided their input and continue to work towards a solution. It is critical we not lose sight of the remaining effort before us and not let system backslide in the coming years only to let taxpayers and commuters suffer worse again in the future.”
You may read the full bill text here.