By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA

The U.S. House of Representative June 10 approved 216 to 210 legislation that would largely maintain federal highway and public transit investment during fiscal year (FY) 2016, which begins Oct. 1.   But the mainly party-line vote (213 Republicans and 3 Democrats supported the bill, while 179 Democrats and 31 Republicans opposed) signals a looming battle on overall levels of federal spending.

Republicans want to increase defense spending by $38 billion in FY 2016 and decrease non-defense spending by $20 billion. In response, President Obama has threatened to veto all FY 2016 funding bills and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says his party will filibuster all spending bills. The last time the parties battled over aggregate spending levels in 2013 the government was shut down for 16 days. While Democrats are calling for a budget summit to resolve the dispute, Republicans are moving forward with individual FY 2016 funding bills (although none have moved in the Senate).

While the House-passed transportation appropriations maintain all existing Highway Trust Fund (HTF) supported investment levels, it does not address the looming trust fund revenue shortfall. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says current HTF revenues will be unable to support any new highway or transit investment in FY 2016.

A summary of the House-proposed FY 2016 transportation appropriations bill is below:

FY 2016 Change from FY 2015
Highways $40.3 billion Same
Transit formula programs $8.6 billion Same
Transit capital grants $1.9 billion Minus $200 million
Airport Improvement Program $3.35 billion Same
Intermodal Grants (Tiger Grants) $100 million Minus $400 million

 

Appropriations bills are required annually to fund all federal agencies—including those within the U.S. Department of Transportation—and are a counterpart to bills that reauthorize the highway and public transportation programs.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet scheduled action on its version of the FY 2016 transportation funding bill.