DALLAS -- The House Appropriations Committee has approved a fiscal 2018 spending plan for transportation and housing that is $1.1 billion less than allocated for fiscal 2017 and $8.6 billion more than requested by the Trump administration.
The measure adopted Monday night is almost identical to the proposed legislation passed by the committee’s transportation and housing and urban development panel last week.
The committee rejected amendments by Democratic lawmakers that would both restore the popular $500 million per year Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program and increase funding for the Community Development Block Grant program. The committee went along with President Trump's fiscal 2018 budget proposal to defund the TIGER program.
The measure funds the CDBG program overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development at $2.9 billion, $100 million less than fiscal 2017. The funds run counter to the Trump administration’s budget proposal to eliminate the block grants.
The bill adopted by the committee provides $17.8 billion of discretionary, non-formula appropriations for the Transportation Department and $38.3 billion for HUD, down $1.1 billion from fiscal 2017 and $8.6 billion more than requested.
The committee’s 2018 transportation appropriation includes the full $55.4 billion of federal highway and transit funding from the Highway Trust Fund promised to states in 2015’s FAST Act.
The transportation funding includes $45 billion from the HTF for highway grants to states, an increase of $968 million from fiscal 2017, as well as $9.7 billion of transit formula grants.
The Federal Transit Administration’s $11.75 billion of total funding, which includes grant programs that come out of the general fund rather than the HTF, is $662 million less than in 2017 but $526 million more than requested in the Trump budget plan.
Rep. David Price, D-N.C., the ranking member on the transportation panel, proposed an amendment to boost infrastructure spending by $200 billion.
Price said his amendment was a response to the pledge by administration officials that President Trump’s proposed $10 billion infrastructure plan would include $200 billion of additional federal funding.
“We were assured by the president that infrastructure would be a priority, yet a plan for infrastructure keeps getting pushed back, back, back,” he said.
"Aren't you tired of just wringing your hands and doing nothing about infrastructure needs?" Price said.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told lawmakers on a Senate Appropriations Committee panel last week that the administration’s infrastructure renewal program would be unveiled in September.
Republicans on the panel also defeated an amendment from Price to restore cuts to the FTA’s Capital Investment Grants program. The adopted spending plan sets total funding for the grants at $1.75 billion in 2018, a drop of $660 million from fiscal 2017 but $520 million more than requested by the Trump administration.
The measure provides $1 billion for transit projects a full funding agreement from the FTA.
The funding in the appropriations measure is insufficient, Price said, despite the committee’s decision to ignore many of the spending cuts proposed by President Trump.
“While simply funding these programs represents a rebuke of the Trump administration, we should not use the draconian Trump budget as a baseline for anything other than a warped vision of America,” he said. “We should be increasing our commitment to these housing and transportation programs, not making cuts.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s transportation panel, said last week she intends to develop a fiscal 2018 spending plan that restores TIGER as well as the transit grants.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and ranking Democrat Sen. Tom Carper, R-Del., have asked lawmakers to submit ideas on infrastructure priorities and policy by July 21 to help the committee develop a comprehensive infrastructure bill.