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Charles Schumer: $500 million in NY, LI bus subsidies restored

Nearly $500 million in bus subsidies for New York State cut by the House a month ago were restored after Senate and House negotiators agreed on a compromise federal transportation bill, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.

Congress is expected to vote on the five-year, $305 billion legislation by Friday, when funding expires for transportation programs.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) hailed the help the bill will bring to New York. But he complained that a plan to add the renewal of the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to the bill was blocked.

The compromise bill includes an $18.5 million increase over time in the $262 million special High Density States bus subsidy program for New York and six other states, Schumer said in a news release.

To assuage House Republicans who eliminated that program as an unfair perk for those seven states, the deal also created a new $300-million-a-year fund open to applications from all states for money to help replace aging buses.

“This is great news for Long Island, New York City and all of New York, and a major victory for our regional transit agencies” said Schumer, one of the members who negotiated the final transportation bill.

Andrew Kraus, a spokesman for Nassau’s NICE bus system, said the news was “very welcome” because “losing those funds would have significantly impacted NICE’s ability to replace fixed route buses and paratransit vehicles as they wear out.”

In 2014, the MTA and New York City Department of Transportation received $94 million, and Long Island won $2.6 million in federal bus funds.

Yet the Zadroga Act extension was left out of the bill.

Democratic and GOP leaders in the House backed adding it to the bill, said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan).

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would agree to do that only if Democrats accepted a measure to lift the oil export ban, a trade they rejected, aides said.

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said everyone is trying to work out the duration and payment for the Zadroga Act. He said “political sniping” is not “constructive.”

Democrats rejected that assertion. “There was a clear path to getting this done but Sen. McConnell blocked it,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Schumer said, “It is just plain wrong to play politics with the health care of these 9/11 heroes.”

Asked about the Zadroga renewal Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said, “We have not decided what vehicle it will be or what funding level, but it is something that we do intend on getting done by the end of the year.”

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