By Dave Bauer, executive vice president of advocacy, ARTBA
The House Appropriations Committee approved May 23 legislation that would increase FY 2019 highway investment by $2.8 billion to a record $49.5 billion and grow other transportation program investment beyond authorized levels. This is the second and final year where federal infrastructure investment would receive boosts from a two-year budget deal between the Trump administration and bipartisan congressional leaders.
The FY 2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill passed the committee 34-17. Democrats opposed the measure due to disagreements about low income housing funding levels and provisions that would change federal policy in areas such as truck size and weight.
Federal transit and aviation construction programs would also receive noteworthy increases. Transit capital programs would see a $310 million addition to the FAST Act approved funding level of $2.3 billion. This contrasts with the Trump administration’s FY 2019 budget proposal to zero out funding for this program. Furthermore, the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) current funding level of $3.35 billion would be augmented by an additional $500 million by the House bill.
The popular TIGER Grant program, a discretionary multimodal program administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation and renamed by the Trump administration as BUILD grants, would receive $750 million under the House bill. This would be a decrease of $750 million from FY 2018 level of $1.5 billion.
The Senate is expected to begin working on its version of the FY 2019 transportation funding measure in June.
The chart below provides details on the spending programs and comparison to previous years and authorized levels.
The House proposal demonstrates that increasing infrastructure investment remains one of the few areas Republicans and Democrats can work together. Furthermore, it directly counters the media driven narrative that efforts to upgrade the nation’s transportation and infrastructure networks has stalled on Capitol Hill. Anyone who thinks a 14 percent increase in highway investment over two years is a lack of progress has not been paying attention to the past two surface transportation reauthorization laws.
While these advances are certainly welcome, it must be emphasized the two-year budget deal that is making increased infrastructure investment possible does not extend to FY 2020. As such, there is the potential for Congress to return to funding the highway and public transportation capital programs at their respective FAST Act authorized levels of $47.1 billion and $2.3 billion.
ARTBA will continue to push for maximum transportation infrastructure investment as the FY 2019 appropriations process moves forward and remind Capitol Hill and the Trump administration of the urgent need for a permanent HTF fix.