The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has submitted to Congress President Joe Biden’s $1.52 trillion discretionary funding request for Fiscal Year 2022, which includes $25.6 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).
Editor’s Note: For updates, please see “Top-Line Guide for Transportation Spending and Infrastructure Investment” below.
The proposed DOT funding is up $317 million, or 1.3%, over FY 2021 enacted funding. But it is “only a fraction” of the DOT’s “total budgetary resources,” according to OMB. “The majority of DOT’s financial assistance to states, localities and transportation authorities is provided through mandatory funding derived from the Highway Trust Fund, as part of multiyear surface transportation authorizations.”
The President’s “forthcoming” budget will include “major, complementary mandatory investments and tax reforms,” OMB said.
Among the discretionary request provisions:
• $625 million for a new passenger rail competitive grant program.
• $375 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grants. This is “equal to the FY 2021 enacted level,” according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
• $2.7 billion for Amtrak “to provide improvements and expansion on the Northeast Corridor and throughout the nation’s passenger rail network,” OMB reported. This is a 35% increase from the FY 2021 enacted level, according to APTA.
• $2.5 billion for the CIG (Capital Investment Grant) program. This is up 23% from the 2021 enacted level, APTA noted.
• $250 million for grants for transit agencies to purchase low- and no-emission buses. “This funding, combined with the assumed $55 million of contract authority of the FAST Act, would provide $305 million for the Low or No Emission Grant Program, a 69% increase from the FY 2021 enacted level,” according to APTA.
• $110 million to establish a “Thriving Communities Initiative Pilot,” which would provide “funding for grants and technical assistance to communities” and “serve as a down-payment on advancing transportation equity.”
• $1 billion for the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program, which is “equal to the FY 2021 enacted level,” according to APTA.
“I look forward to receiving the Administration’s full budget in the coming weeks so that Congress can pass a budget resolution and the Senate Appropriations Committee can begin marking up bills,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Committee Chairman. “It has been a trying year for all of us. Congress must come together on a bipartisan basis and do the work of the American people by marking up all 12 appropriations bills.”
Top-Line Guide for Transportation Spending and Infrastructure Investment
“With President Biden’s proposal for $2 trillion in new infrastructure investment [through the American Jobs Plan], Washington, D.C., has launched three parallel debates about federal transportation spending,” explains Railway Age Contributing Editor Donald M. Itzkoff, who is Chief Policy Officer of Patriot Rail Company LLC and Patriot Port Holdings.
Here, Itzkoff provides a quick snapshot of how the dialogue interlocks:
- FY 2022 USDOT Appropriations — “On April 9, the Biden Administration sent to Congress its request for FY 2022 discretionary spending, including appropriations for the USDOT. This transportation spend blueprint is part of the Biden Administration’s overall federal budget proposal for FY 2022, starting Oct. 1, 2021. The House and Senate Appropriations committees will consider the President’s proposal, make their own revisions, and ultimately vote on FY 2022 federal spending levels. A final Congressional resolution of the USDOT appropriation has been lumped into the huge ‘omnibus’ measures seen in recent years and that may happen again.”
- Surface Transportation Reauthorization — “Congress last year extended the current FAST Act, which now expires Sept. 30, 2021. At its core, the FAST Act ‘authorizes’ spending from the Highway Trust Fund (including the transit portion). Over the past decade or so, to enable surface transportation spending beyond Highway Trust Fund receipts, Congress has additionally authorized further discretionary allocations from the general fund. Such discretionary general fund expenditures are offset by other revenue or spending cuts, or just added to the deficit.
“Beyond this ‘plus-up’ to Highway Trust Fund expenditures, surface transportation authorizations such as the FAST Act have lately become multi-modal policy measures with spending on a range of investments including the rail title, funded through annual general fund appropriations. USDOT appropriations each year are supposed to follow the parameters of the current FAST Act, but frequently appropriators choose to spend less (and sometimes more) than the ‘authorized’ FAST Act amounts. Appropriators may also wade into policy matters in the annual federal transportation spending bills, setting up constant tension between the House and Senate Appropriations committees, and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House and the three transportation authorizing committees in the Senate: Environment and Public Works, Commerce, and Banking.”
- Biden Administration Infrastructure Proposal — “On March 31, President Biden proposed investing about $2 trillion in ‘infrastructure,’ defined broadly. The President offered an outline of proposed new spending, offset by increasing corporate and other taxes, but has not sent to Congress detailed legislative language encompassing the entire plan.
“Congress is reviewing the President’s infrastructure proposal, and the only certain conclusion is that final legislation if any will differ from the President’s initial plan. It would seem logical to combine the President’s proposal for new surface transportation investment with FAST Act reauthorization, except that the $2 trillion infrastructure proposal is broader than transportation alone. Additionally from a legislative process standpoint, if Democratic leaders in Congress move infrastructure investment through the budget reconciliation process, which only requires 51 votes in the Senate instead of 60, consideration of the Highway Trust Fund reauthorization may technically be excluded from budget reconciliation. Considering infrastructure investment legislation separately from FAST Act reauthorization also reduces Congress’ ability to pursue policy changes. Such a path means that contentious issues including truck size and weights would not be likely to appear in a new infrastructure supplemental spending bill. And at the same time, FY 2022 appropriations will continue on its own separate track.”