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AASHTO Journal

Lawmakers in Budget Accord Reject Transportation Program Cuts White House Sought

Congress in its budget agreement for fiscal 2017 rejected a number of cuts in transportation programs that the White House had urged lawmakers to implement, cuts that President Trump has also said he will pursue in his budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

As previously reported, the White House Office of Management and Budget on March 24 sent Congress a list of suggested 2017 budget cuts, recommending among other things that lawmakers zero out the Department of Transportation's TIGER infrastructure grant program and cut $400 million in Federal Transit Administration "new starts" funding.

capitol0816.jpgThe OMB also reportedly proposed cutting $100 million from the Army Corps of Engineers' water resources budget.

Instead, appropriators included in the 2017 funding agreement a new round of $500 million in TIGER grants. Lawmakers not only included FTA news starts funding but increased it, and wrote into the legislation a detailed list of federal contributions for congressionally supported transit projects that do not yet have full funding grant agreements with the agency. They also increased the Corps of Engineers' funding by $49 million.

The 2017 government funding bill also keeps or increases other programs that President Trump has signaled he wants to cut in 2018.

His "skinny budget" blueprint for 2018 also called for ending TIGER, limiting funds for new transit projects and cutting $1 billion from the Corps of Engineers.

It proposed ending federal subsidies for Amtrak's long-distance passenger rail service outside the busy Northeast Corridor. The president also called for ending the Federal Aviation Administration's Essential Air Service program that provides subsidies to help maintain passenger operations to smaller and rural airports. And he proposed eliminating the Economic Development Administration, a Commerce Department agency that often awards grants to help build or improve transportation systems to support regional business operations.

But Congress in the fiscal 2017 measure showed its support for all those programs. It funded Amtrak's long-distance service as well as the NEC, continued the Essential Air Service program and increased both the EDA grants and an EPA grant program that retrofits or replaces old diesel transportation equipment.

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