By Dean Franks, vice president of congressional relations, ARTBA
Federal investment in transportation projects remains level funded or faces drastic cuts in FY 2016 budget proposals being considered by Congress. That’s the result of a decision on federal spending levels reached April 29 by senators and representatives charged with constructing the budget resolution.
Similar to the House and Senate versions of the non-binding legislation passed in March, the proposal would cut non-defense spending in the coming years and, if adhered to, balance the budget by 2025.
As it relates to transportation, the budget follows the previously-passed House and Senate resolutions by bringing highway and transit investment in line with receipts coming into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). This would lead to drastic cuts to the programs and prevent any new federally-funded highway construction project from moving forward in FY 2016. However, the agreement allows for these budget caps on surface transportation to be adjusted if the HTF shortfall is addressed by Congress without increasing the deficit over the next 10 years.
The House April 30 approved the budget resolution 226 to 197, with 14 Republicans joining all Democrats who voted in dissent. The Senate is slated to take up the legislation the week of May 4.
Meanwhile, the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee April 29 passed a FY 2016 transportation funding bill that locks most transportation spending at or near current funding levels. The highway and transit programs funded out of the HTF would continue at $40.2 billion and $8.6 billion, respectively, assuming legislation between now and FY 2016 is enacted to reauthorize the programs and shore up the HTF.
The transit capital grants would receive a $200 million cut from current funding to $1.9 billion and airport capital construction—the Airport Improvement Program – would receive $3.35 billion, the same as FY 2015. The passage of this bill out of the subcommittee marks the beginning of the months-long appropriations process that, for the majority of capital programs, will likely hinge largely on whether or not reauthorizations of surface transportation and aviation laws are completed this year, and at what spending levels these programs are approved.