Democrats won a small victory in the Senate yesterday when they blocked an effort to keep oil companies from having to pay increased royalties when they drill on public land. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) tried to let oil companies off the hook by tacking a rider onto the Interior Department spending bill, but Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) blocked the move. The Interior Department says current royalty assessments undercharge oil companies by some $66 million a year for oil taken from public lands. Democrats also succeeded in keeping Republicans from cutting public transit funds for New York and California by $278 million. The two states account for nearly half of the nation’s mass transit riders.