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House budget for the rest of 2011 has deep cuts for transportation

On the Friday before the President releases his budget for 2012 (forthcoming sometime this morning), the House Appropriations Committee, led by Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) released their funding proposal to carry the government through the rest of 2011.

Quick refresher: The government is currently operating under what’s known as a Continuing Resolution (CR) that expires in March. Congress has been under pressure since late in 2010 to pass a full budget, but have been passing Continuing Resolutions due to an inability to agree on and pass a budget. These CRs basically continue funding levels from the 2010 fiscal year until Congress manages to pass a budget for 2011. Or they pass a CR with cuts and lower funding, which is what the House has proposed.

The 2011 budget that passed out of the Appropriations Committee Friday afternoon has some significant cuts for transportation, and some of them mirror the proposal that came from the Republican Study Committee a few weeks ago. There are a lot of cuts to very worthwhile programs across the board, but here are some of the highlights (lowlights?) for transportation:

  • New Starts, the program that funds new transit construction, gets cut by $430 million. There is also a rescission of about $300 million in unspent 2010 (fiscal year) funds.
  • High-speed rail is cut completely and the CR would rescind essentially all funds from 2010. Other than the money already spent, this entire program is eliminated.
  • The innovative TIGER program is eliminated completely and the unspent/unobligated FY10 funds are rescinded.
  • Amtrak appears to be mostly intact, avoiding the cuts that were proposed by the GOP study committee.

These cuts target exactly the kinds of projects that can create the most jobs and can help get our economy moving. Costs for labor and material are low right now, making it a prime time to spend on infrastructure, and we know that spending on public transportation creates more jobs than other types of transportation spending.

While these cuts are indeed severe and may get some support in the House, this proposal will still have to make it through the Senate.

We’ll be back later today with some information on how you can contact your Representative and urge them to reject these cuts to critical transportation projects.