2018 has already been an unusual year for federal budget and spending policy.
In February, the Trump administration sent a budget to Capitol Hill calling for sweeping cuts and program eliminations, including deep reductions in infrastructure and community development. Just weeks later, Congress delivered to the White House an omnibus spending bill for FY 2018 containing the largest increases in domestic programs in a decade. Those omnibus funding boosts were made possible by a two-year bipartisan budget agreement.
Now, Congress turns its attention to spending legislation for the second year of that agreement: FY 2019.
This week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation-HUD (THUD) celebrates Infrastructure Week by kicking off the process with votes on a funding blueprint. The THUD mark up will likely be followed by action in the full committee within days.
House and Senate leaders are hoping to move quickly on appropriations bill given the looming midterm election. But Congress faces a stark choice: support the administration's cuts and return to budget austerity, or embrace the spending agreement and maintain or increase funding based on current enacted current levels.
Most signs suggest that Congress has little appetite for the cuts contained in the President's budget. This week's THUD vote, along with consideration of funding for U.S. EPA and Interior Department programs, will provide a clear sense of what to expect and an opportunity for advocates to make the case for key programs.
For THUD programs, the FY18 omnibus provided needed new investments:
- TIGER (renamed BUILD) grants tripled to $1.5 billion
- Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) increased by $300 million to $3.3 billion
- HOME increased by more than $400 million to $1.362 billion
- Choice Neighborhoods grew by nearly 9 percent to $150 million
- Transit New Starts boosted to $2.6 billion
- Funding increases for all transportation major transportation formula programs
The message for appropriators is clear:
- Build on the progress made in the omnibus
- Reject the administration's budget
- Grow critical investments in housing, transportation, and other critical infrastructure
APA and allied organizations supporting CDBG and HOME have called for $3.5 billion in FY19 for CDBG and $1.5 billion for HOME. Likewise, the budget agreement can support further investments in transportation through TIGER/BUILD, Transit Investment Grants, and key formula programs.
As other funding bills move forward, similar opportunities exist to support federal programs that help communities expand opportunity and prosperity, including water infrastructure, hazard mitigation, economic development, and federal data programs.
With House activity under way, the Senate is expected to move soon with the Appropriations Committee is targeting the week of June 4 for action on THUD and the week of June 11 for Interior and Environment.
Top image: U.S. Capitol building.
Jason Jordan is APA's director of policy.