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Trump Budget Cuts Transportation Funding

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

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The budget proposal put forth last week by President Donald J. Trump would see the federal government taking a step back in its funding of transportation projects, leading some to question how the administration intends to achieve the $1 trillion infrastructure plan it touted on the campaign trail.

The budget proposal, known as the “skinny budget” because it is relatively scant on details and precedes a more comprehensive proposal to come, involves a $2.4 billion, or 13 percent, cut to discretionary spending at the Department of Transportation. But administration officials have said that cuts to funding for infrastructure programs will be made up for when the president's infrastructure bill, a separate piece of legislation, is unveiled this summer.

The DOT’s TIGER Grant program, which last year awarded $500 million in funding to projects not served by other federal programs, would be cut completely in the new budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins in October.

President Trump
A. Shaker / VOA, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

President Trump's budget proposal cuts funding to the Department of Transportation by 13 percent, though the Office of Management and Budget's director says funds are being moved to an infrastructure bill that will be unveiled this summer.

TIGER Grants have sent more than $5.1 billion in funding to projects in all 50 states since 2009, according to the DOT. These grants often comprise the last bit of funding needed on projects largely funded by states or through other means.

The Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program, established under the FAST Act of 2015, will be maintained at its planned level, $900 million, in 2018, according to the budget plan.

The budget would also begin the process of privatizing air traffic control, shed most federal funding for Amtrak outside of the Northeast Corridor, and eliminate subsidies for rural air service.

Infrastructure Package to Come

Some industry groups have expressed dismay with the cuts to transportation funding, especially after a promised infrastructure boost. “It’s hard not to wonder how those cuts jibe with the president’s often-repeated pledge to invest in infrastructure,” Brian Turmail of the Associated General Contractors of America told The New York Times. “We had a sense that this was coming, but it doesn’t mean that we like it.”

According to Politico, Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney says the cuts to the DOT represent a change to how infrastructure will be done, but not a retreat from the president’s commitment to the infrastructure package.

Alaksan Way Viaduct construction
Washington State DOT, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr

The budget proposal cuts the federal TIGER Grant program, but maintains the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program at $900 million in 2018.

“What we’re doing now is we’re taking it out of the discretionary budget and we’re going to move it into the larger infrastructure plan this summer,” he told the news site.

"Actions that result in a reduction to U.S. transportation system investment concern us,” said Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “So we're anxious to see the president's full infrastructure investment package to put the proposals outlined in this budget in context."

DOD Funding Up, DOL Down

The Department of Defense gets a boost in the budget proposal, with an end to sequestration and a total increase of $54 billion. The budget specifically addresses increasing the size of the U.S. Navy, a plan Trump has long promised.

The budget cuts the Department of Labor’s discretionary spending by $2.5 billion, or 21 percent, eliminating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s $11 million training grants program, which the administration calls “unproven.” The budget purports to “help States expand apprenticeship, an evidence-based approach to preparing workers for jobs.”

EPA Cuts

The Environmental Protection Agency takes a $2.6 billion hit in the budget, reducing its discretionary spending by 31 percent and eliminating 3,200 positions. The administration stresses drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in the document, increasing funding to the State Revolving Funds by $4 million to $2.3 billion, and providing $20 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

The Clean Power Plan, which focuses on climate change and renewable energy, would be cut completely. Superfund cleanup would be cut by about a third, down $330 million to $762 million. The EPA’s Office of Research and Development would have its funding reduced by nearly half, from $483 millon to $250 million, shrinking or eliminating programs like STAR research grants.

EPA enforcement efforts would be refocused to areas not addressed by states, cutting the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance from $548 million to $419 million. More than 50 EPA programs would be eliminated under the budget, the administration says, including Energy Star, the labeling program for efficient appliances and home construction products and techniques.

   

Tagged categories: Department of Defense (DOD); Department of Labor; Department of Transportation (DOT); Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Funding; Infrastructure; OSHA; President Trump

Comment from Craig Smith, (3/21/2017, 7:47 AM)

Looks like the lawmakers will be forced to actually negotiate for the money they want to pass around.


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