WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee last week approved a $56.5 billion measure to fund the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies in fiscal year 2017.
The FY2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Act is scheduled to be considered by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
The subcommittee-approved measure reflects an allocation of $56.474 billion in discretionary spending, an $827 million decrease from FY2016 current enacted levels and $2.9 billion below the President’s budget request. The THUD allocation accounts for certain rescissions and estimated receipts that are not reflected in the fiscal year 2016 total. The bill also ignores gimmicks in the President’s budget request that would shift $7.4 billion in certain accounts from discretionary to mandatory spending.
“Through considerable negotiation and compromise, this bipartisan bill makes important investments in our nation’s infrastructure, helps meet the housing needs of the most vulnerable among us, and provides funding for economic development projects that create jobs in our communities,” said U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee. “This legislation assists families in need, funds grants to help reduce homelessness, increases the safety of our nation’s highways and airspace, and supports transportation infrastructure and community development projects that will help grow our economy.”
The bill prioritizes funding for critical transportation projects and programs to encourage economic growth and efficiency, and for core housing programs for the nation’s most vulnerable individuals. Given budget constraints, the bill targets funding for these critical programs, while making responsible choices to reduce spending in lower-priority areas.
Transportation – $16.9 billion in discretionary appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation, $1.7 billion below the FY2016 enacted level and $2.5 billion below the President’s request. Within this amount, funding is prioritized on programs to make transportation systems safe, efficient, and reliable. The bill ignores the budget request to shift certain programs from discretionary to mandatory spending.
• TIGER Grants – $525 million for TIGER grants (also known as National Infrastructure Investments), $25 million above the FY2016 enacted level.
• Highways – $44 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the Federal-aid Highways Program, consistent with the recently-enacted surface transportation authorization bill, the FAST Act. The bill continues to allow state departments of transportation to repurpose old, unused earmarks for more important infrastructure projects.
• Aviation – $16.4 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), $131.6 million above the FY2016 enacted level and $512.5 million above the request. This will provide full funding for all air traffic control personnel, including more than 14,000 air traffic controllers, and more than 25,000 engineers, maintenance technicians, safety inspectors, and operational support personnel. The bill, once again, rejects the President’s request to remove large commercial airports from the Airport Improvements program by allowing them to raise passenger facility charges. The bill also provides $1 billion for the FAA Next Generation Air Transportation Systems (NextGen), and fully funds the Contract Towers program to help ease future congestion and help reduce delays for travelers in U.S. airspace.
• Rail – $1.7 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, $76 million above the FY2016 enacted level. This includes $1.4 billion for Amtrak for the Northeast Corridor and National Network, continuing service for all current routes. The bill provides $334 million for rail safety and research programs, $46 million above the FY2016 enacted level. This will fund inspectors and provide training to help ensure the safety of passengers and local communities. The bill also provides $50 million for rail safety activities in the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Improvement grants program, $20 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants, and $15 million for Restoration and Enhancement grants. These programs will help implement Positive Train Control (PTC), enhance passenger rail safety, reduce highway-rail grade crossings incidents, and address the state of good repair backlog on shared use passenger and local commuter rail infrastructure.
• Transit – $12.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, $575 million above FY2016 enacted level. The bill provides $9.7 billion for transit formula grants, consistent with the FAST Act. The bill provides $2.3 billion for Capital Investment Grants (New Starts), fully funding all current Full Funding Grant Agreement transit projects. Within this amount, $333 million is provided for core capacity projects, $241 million for small starts projects, and $20 million for the expedited delivery pilot program. These programs provide competitive grant funding for major transit capital investments planned and operated by local communities, including rapid rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, and commuter rail.
• Maritime – $485 million for the Maritime Administration, $86 million above the FY2016 enacted level, to increase the productivity, efficiency and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land transportation. The Maritime Security Program is funded at $275 million. The bill also includes $34 million for State Maritime Academies (SMAs), including $6 million to develop a replacement vessel for the six SMA training ships. These training ships are essential to continuing a strong merchant marine workforce.
• Safety – The legislation contains funding for various transportation safety programs and agencies. This includes $891 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, including additional funding for autonomous vehicle research. The bill also provides $644 million for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, including key safety provisions, and a requirement for the Transportation Department to complete its proposed rule on Speed Limiters. Additionally, the bill provides $259 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to help address safety concerns related to recent pipeline and crude oil by rail accidents.
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – $39.2 billion for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, an increase of nearly $891 million above the FY2016 enacted level and $446 million below the budget request.
• Community Planning and Development – $6.7 billion for Community Planning and Development programs, $18 million above the FY2016 enacted level. The bill provides: $3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant formula program; $2.3 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants; $950 million for the HOME program; and $335 million for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program. The bill ensures that funds are better targeted to communities with the highest burden of HIV cases by preventing HUD from counting deceased individuals when determining formula allocations for grantees.
• Emphasis on Youth Homelessness – The bill includes provisions to expand and improve HUD delivery of housing and services for homeless youth. It provides $20 million to support more than 2,500 new family unification vouchers to prevent youth from becoming homeless after exiting foster care. An additional $40 million is included to test comprehensive efforts to end youth homelessness in urban and rural areas.
• Section 8 and Public Housing – $27.9 billion for Public and Indian Housing, $1 billion above the FY2016 enacted level and $357 million below the budget requested. This funding continues assistance to all families and individuals currently served by these programs.
Other assisted-housing programs within the bill are funded at $11.6 billion, $351 million above the FY 2016 enacted level. This increase is needed to provide full funding for all project-based rental assistance contracts and continue assistance to all those currently served by these programs. Within this amount, the bill provides $505 million for Housing for the Elderly, $72 million above the FY 2016 enacted level, and $154 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities, $3 million above the FY 2016 enacted level.
SOURCE: Senate Committee on Appropriations