The House and Senate Budget Committees each approved FY 2016 budget resolutions the week of March 16 amid heavy debate in both panels about the appropriate level of defense spending, with some members of Congress seeking additional funds for overseas conflicts and others pushing for maximum deficit reduction.

Both measures would cut non-defense spending over the next 10 years, with the House plan reducing more than its Senate counterpart.  The House proposal also includes a specific recommendation to reduce future federal highway and transit investment to what current Highway Trust Fund revenues could support.  The measure does not specify what that amount would be, but in the past similar strategies would have forced surface transportation investment cuts of between 34 and 60 percent.  Both the House and Senate budget proposals included a mechanism that would allow highway and transit investment to increase if new trust fund revenues are generated by subsequent legislation.

Despite the outcome of the budget debates, it is important to remember budget resolutions do not hold the force of law and it is still the responsibility of the House and Senate tax and transportation committees to grow Highway Trust Fund revenues and produce a multi-year surface transportation authorization measure.