On June 7 the Senate Appropriations Committee formally advanced the Fiscal Year 2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Appropriations Act or "THUD bill" by a unanimous vote of 31-0.
The bill provides $71.4 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies; monies that are $1.1 billion above Fiscal Year 2018 enacted levels.
Where transportation is concerned, year-over-year funding levels was lowered slightly. The USDOT's $26.6 billion in discretionary appropriations for Fiscal Year 2019 is actually $698 million below the Fiscal Year 2018 enacted level, according to the committee.
However, the bill also authorizes $46 billion to be transferred from the highway trust fund to the Federal-aid Highways Program, consistent with the Fixing America's Surface Transportation or "FAST" Act. In keeping with the two-year budget agreement's emphasis on infrastructure investments, the bill provides $3.3 billion in additional funding for highway programs from the general fund, including $90 million to eliminate hazards at railway-highway grade crossings and $800 million for bridge repairs. The bill maintains flexibility for state departments of transportation to repurpose some stagnant funding earmarked to old projects.
"This bipartisan bill is the product of considerable negotiation and compromise. I worked closely with Ranking Member [Sen. Jack] Reed [D-Rhode Island] in drafting this bill, and we received input from 70 Senators with more than 800 requests, all of which we carefully evaluated," said Sen. Susan Collins (seen at left), R-Maine, chairman of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, in a statement. "The funding in this legislation will allow us to invest in our nation's infrastructure, while fully funding the renewal of housing assistance for low-income seniors and other vulnerable populations, such as teenagers and veterans who are homeless."
However, during the markup hearing for the THUD bill on June 5, Sen. Collins warned that its discretionary monies should not viewed as a long-term "replacement" for transportation funding needs.
"I want to make clear that these funding levels are meant to supplement funding from the highway trust fund and should not be viewed as a replacement for the long-term sustained funding needed from the highway trust fund for our state and local governments," she noted during the June 5 hearing. "I would encourage the administration to reauthorize the FAST Act and to ensure the long-term sustainability of the highway trust fund."
The breakdown of the Fiscal Year 2019 THUD bill includes:
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