CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — If House Bill 4331 is not approved, mass transit agencies across West Virginia say they stand to lose millions of dollars in federal aid.
The bill would allow federal funding of public transit in the Mountain State, but federal law says the agencies must allow collection of union dues directly from worker paychecks.
“By not being able to collect those union dues, we in fact are out of compliance with those Department of Labor requirements. Therefore rendering us ineligible for federal funding,” said Sean Hill, Kanawha Valley Regional Transit.
Critics say that violates West Virginia’s Paycheck Protection Act which was passed last year.
“That’s what they are saying is in jeopardy, because that’s a violation of their collective bargaining agreement. But it’s not. It’s just a convenience factor for the union to take it directly out of he check,” said Del. Geoff Foster, (R) Putnam.
In the meantime transit leaders say the state will lose $16 million in federal funding every year, and $125 million from the federal infrastructure package. That could mean layoffs, and cuts in bus service.
“Without 30 percent of our funding we’re going to have to make real tough decisions when it comes to the level of service we provide across the Kanawha County,” said Sean Hill, Kanawha Valley Regional Transit.
The other transit agencies affected are in Cabell, Wood, Harrison and Ohio counties. Studies show one-in-five West Virginians use public transit.
“OVRTA takes people up to he Highlands to their jobs. It takes them to the Highlands where West Liberty has a campus. It takes them to Downtown Wheeling where they may receive services at the Wheeling Clinic,” said Del Erikka Storch, (R) Ohio County,
Since it involves federal dollars, and a potential conflict with state laws, some believe a federal court may have to decide.
After being in legislative limbo for a it, the mass transit bill is back on the House Calendar and there could be a final vote on Friday.