The transportation budget proposal President Obama released yesterday went well beyond setting spending levels for fiscal year 2015, outlining a vision for rebooting our nation’s transportation program. While the dollar figures may be considered moot by the two-year bipartisan budget that passed the Congress in December, the principles that he and his Administration put forward are substantially in line with what we’ve been hearing from business, elected and civic leaders across the country.
“The budget clearly recognizes that investment in infrastructure is essential in laying the groundwork for our future prosperity over many years,” said T4America director James Corless in our official statement yesterday. “Many of the priorities expressed in the budget clearly point in the right direction: keeping our system in good repair, supporting local efforts to promote economic development, spurring innovation through competitive grants and eliminating freight bottlenecks.”
For a breakdown of the key changes the Administration is proposing, see our analysis here. (PDF)
Step one, of course, is to figure out how to raise the money for transportation to shore up the transportation fund and make the investments necessary to ensure a prosperous economy.
Just to extend MAP-21 at the same funding levels, the trust fund requires an infusion of $19 billion next year or $100 billion over 6 years. We know that finding that sort of money won’t be an easy task, but having that conversation is the first crucial step. The President and House Ways and Means Chairman Camp both deserve recognition for presenting their preferred approach of using corporate tax reform to plug the funding gap.
The President’s budget proposes a 4-year, $302 billion surface transportation reauthorization, which is an $87 billion increase over the current spending levels.
To ensure the money is invested well, the Administration proposes several key policy moves: The first would be bringing all the programs and modes together in a unified transportation trust fund. The budget sets a priority on “fixing it first” and creates a program dedicated to repairing our most worrisome needs. It would strengthen competitive grant programs that foster innovation, local control and transparency, and create incentives for projects that deliver strong economic benefits. Freight choke points in our busiest economic centers would get special attention, regardless of mode. Acknowledging the tremendous surge in demand, public transportation projects would get a 70 percent boost.
The Administration’s priorities should inform the reauthorization of the federal program as Congress takes up the matter later this year. We at T4America look forward to seeing the details of how the Administration proposes to accomplish these goals in the President’s promised four-year reauthorization proposal.
As for what’s likely to happen next, because the bipartisan budget passed by Congress in December also set top-line budget amounts for the year (FY15) to come, it’s uncertain if the House or Senate will introduce or pass their own budget resolutions this year. Still, whether the ultimate legislative vehicle is the reauthorization of MAP-21 or appropriations bills later this year, it’s essential that Congress and the President come to agreement on a way to continue supporting communities’ efforts to maintain their transportation infrastructure and prepare for the future.
|FY13 USDOT Appropriations (post sequestration)||FY14 USDOT Appropriations||President's FY15 Proposed Budget||Difference between FY14 Approps and President's FY15 budget proposal|
|Transit Formula Grants||$8.46B||$8.6B||$13.914B||+$5.314B|
|Transit 'New Starts'||$1.86B||$2.13B||$2.5B||+$370M|
|High Speed Rail/High Performance Passenger Rail||$0||$0||0*||-|
|Current Passenger Rail Service||-||-||$2.45B||+$1.06B**|
|Rail Service Improvement Program||-||-||$2.325B||+$2.325B|
|Critical Immediate Investments||-||-||$4.85B||+4.85B|
|Fixing and Accelerating Surface Transportation (FAST)||-||-||$1.0B||+$1.0B|
|Rapid Growth Area Transit Program||-||-||$500M||+$500M|
*The FY15 Budget consolidates existing rail programs into 2 new programs.
**Compared to FY14 Appropriations for Amtrak Capital and Operations