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Budget Stopgap Delays FAST Act Hikes

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

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An increase in federal funding that was slated as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act is on hold through late April as part of a budget stopgap passed in the eleventh hour on Friday (Dec. 9).

The U.S. House and Senate each passed a bill referred to as a continuing resolution, which averts a government shutdown by continuing spending in most federal departments at 2016 rates through April 28, 2017.

US Capitol
Raul654, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. House and Senate each passed a continuing resolution, which averts a government shutdown by continuing spending in most federal department at 2016 rates through April 28, 2017.

The FAST Act, passed in December 2015, authorized $2.4 billion in increases in transportation-related spending in fiscal year 2017, which started in October 2016. The continuing resolution, though, keeps infrastructure spending at last year’s rates.

Lobbying for Increases

As The Hill reports, Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee attempted to include the FAST Act increases in the continuing resolution because they had already been authorized, but the final bill kept transportation spending flat.

“Instead of carrying out the promise of rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, and transit systems, the Continuing Resolution ignores the FAST Act transportation funding levels that were approved a year ago, resulting in a $2.4 billion reduction in transportation investment which will impact the next spring’s construction seasons,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) told the publication.

Highway construction
© iStock.com / PapaBear

The FAST Act accounts for $305 billion in funding over the next five years, including yearly increases in funding for the Highway Trust Fund.

DeFazio had lobbied prior to the passage of the continuing resolution to make an exception in the bill for the FAST Act funds.

Disaster Response Funding

One exception that did make its way into the resolution involves disaster response funding. Infrastructure and farms damaged by Hurricane Matthew will be on the receiving end of money allotted in the continuing resolution, with $1 billion from the general fund allotted to the Federal Highway Administration’s emergency relief account. The bill also sends just over $1 billion to the Army Corps of Engineers for coastal repair, and $4.1 billion to FEMA.

The FAST Act, hailed as a step toward sustained funding for transportation infrastructure when it was passed a year ago, accounts for $305 billion in funding over the next five years, including yearly increases in funding for the Highway Trust Fund. The new money accounted for by the act comes largely from revenues related to the Federal Reserve, and the FAST Act does not increase the federal gas tax, the main source of funding for the Highway Trust Fund. The gas tax was last increased in 1993.

Besides the Highway Trust Fund, FAST Act funds are also set to be directed to mass transit. However, there is no specific funding dedicated for bridge work in the act.

The federal budget delay will give Congress time early in 2017 to determine what President-elect Trump’s plan for infrastructure spending may involve. Trump has proposed a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure, which could involve tax credits for private investment, a tax on overseas corporate holdings, or an infrastructure bank.

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Funding; Government; Infrastructure; North America; Program/Project Management; Roads/Highways; Transportation

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