Four NSTA members representing Wisconsin private school bus companies sat down this week with Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan as part of NSTA’s annual spring meetings and “Capitol Hill Fly-In.”
Magda Dimmendaal, owner and CEO of Dousman Transport west of Milwaukee and the incoming NSTA president, said she and three other NSTA representatives spoke with Ryan about the preservation of federal school bus protections, specifically regarding the St. Germain Amendment passed by Congress in the 1970s to limit unfair competition with private business by federally-funded mass transit agencies. Dimmendaal pointed out that private bus companies that contract with school districts for student transportation do not receive subsidies and must pay taxes like other businesses.
Joining Dimmendaal on the visit to Ryan’s office was Rochelle Bast, vice president of operations at Riteway Bus; Rob Nelson, president of Dousman Transport; and Tom Ready, owner of Ready Bus Lines.
Dimmendaal said the group also asked Ryan to preserve the federal fuel tax exemption for school buses, which had been under fire last year, especially in New York state, where the IRS tried unsuccessfully repeal the exemption for local private bus operators. NSTA was able to get Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to petition the IRS to end its attempts.
Ryan was also asked about the future of the DERA program, of which the school bus industry is eligible to receive federal funding towards emissions retrofits, idling programs, engine re-powers and purchases of new, cleaner-burning diesel school buses. Dimmendaal also reported that the group spoke to Ryan about legislation on graduated driver’s licensing and impact on private operators and the NHTSA public education and awareness campaign to promote yellow school bus transportation, which is scheduled to begin this coming fall.
“He talked to us about his proposed budget and how he feels that the 2012 elections will be a defining moment in Americas history,” Dimmendaal added. “He was dynamic and full of excitement and energy.
The meeting took place on May 4 as NSTA members joined with United Motorcoach Association members to discuss school bus contractor and motorcoach operator issues with their local congressional representatives. The day concluded with a dinner and keynote speaker Jim Nussle, former United States congressman from Iowa, former chairman of the House Budget Committee and former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush.
The “Fly-In” concluded the following day with legislative and regulatory updates from various federal agencies. Participants from NSTA joined those from sister-organization the United Motorcoach Association to learn the latest on the pending highway reauthorization bill. Addressing the bus companies were: Rep. John Mica (R-FL), Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Rep. Jimmy Duncan (R-TN), Rep.n Tim Scott (R-SC), Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), and Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL).
“It is both critical and worthwhile to take the time to come and meet with your elected representatives to let them know how the laws and rules they pass affect you,” said Ken Presley, UMA’s COO and vice president of industry relations. “More than ever, our industry is under the microscope, and the meetings this year took on more purpose-we thank all of our members who joined us in D.C. these past few days. It really makes a difference.”