News and Updates

Regional Spotlight
Neil Bomberg

This Month in Photos: February 2019

Welcome to the latest edition of Regional Councils: This Month in Photos!

Each month, NARC publishes Regional Councils: This Month in Photos to highlight events and activities taking place in regions around the nation.

Transportation
NARC Staff

Hearing Analysis: Aligning Federal Surface Transportation Policy to Meet 21st Century Needs

On March 12th, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit convened to discuss prioritizing the reauthorization of highway and transit programs before they expire next year. Regions and local communities require continued federal infrastructure investment to provide regional connectivity and modern mobility through efficient multi-modal systems.

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eRegions

March 18, 2019        View full newsletter

NEWS FROM WASHINGTON
Congress is out on recess this week. They will return Monday, March 25.
 
NARC on the Hill
As the process for fiscal year (FY) 2020 ramps up, NARC staff has been making trips to Capitol Hill to advocate for funding important to localities and regions. NARC staff joined our partners in the CDBG Coalition last week to bring attention to the effectiveness of the CDBG program and the need to support salaries for more Department of Housing and Urban Development staff to carry out critical programs amid a housing affordability crisis. Our staff will continue to attend Hill meetings with our coalition partners over the next few weeks to advocate on topics including CDBG and HOME, all facets of infrastructure, workforce, and more. 
 
Inside Trump’s Budget: 6 Things State and Local Governments Should Know
Last week, the president released his vision for the federal government’s FY 2020 budgetGoverning identified six takeaways from the budget request that local governments should know:

  1. Congress is not expected to take up the president’s budget request – it’s largely viewed as a window into the Administration’s funding priorities.
  2. There are significant cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), research needs for pollution control agencies, and for bodies of water with a history of major environmental and health problems.
  3. The budget request calls for major Medicaid, public welfare, and public housing cuts.
  4. The proposal would cut transportation programs by 19 percent, eliminate CDBG and HOME, and cut funding for federal programs that drive investment in clean energy innovation. The plan does include $200 billion over 10 years for infrastructure spending and doubles funding for the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program for roads and bridges.
  5. Many of Trump’s proposed cuts were in previous budget requests.
  6. The budget request would run a $1 billion deficit each year for the rest of his term.

 
More Fiscal 2020 Budget Details Released
Today, the Trump Administration released more documents from the president’s formal FY 2020 budget request. The budget appendix document contains agency-by-agency information on individual programs and funding accounts. The analytical perspectives document highlights specified subject areas or provide other significant presentations of budget data that place the budget in perspective. The major savings and reforms document describes both major discretionary program eliminations and reductions and mandatory savings proposals. NARC staff will provide more detail on the president’s budget and congressional budget and appropriations work in the coming weeks.
 
Lawmakers Press Treasury Secretary Mnuchin for Opportunity Zones Oversight
While testifying during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the president’s FY 2020 budget request, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin fielded questions from lawmakers on the Opportunity Zones (OZ) program. Lawmakers stressed that they want to see data and metrics for the program so the initiative is transparent and its effectiveness can be assessed. Secretary Mnuchin agreed, saying that the department has not yet issued guidelines around reporting and data collection because they do not want to rush the guideline determination process. The secretary did not 0ffer a specific date of when we could expect a new round of guidelines, but said they are going through a review process.

Transportation Thursdays

March 14, 2019      View full newsletter

CONGRESS BRIEF

House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee: Aligning Federal Surface Transportation Policy to Meet 21st Century Needs
Yesterday the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit convened to discuss prioritizing the reauthorization of highway and transit programs before they expire next year. Regions and local communities require continued federal infrastructure investment to provide regional connectivity and modern mobility through efficient multi-modal systems. There were conversations around creating funding models, including the use of a gas tax or a mileage-user-based fee program, that will increase the long-term solvency of the highway trust fund and give local governments the ability to invest in long-term projects. There was recognition that MPO’s need the flexibility to address localized impacts and needs, but that their work creates solutions across regions that benefit everyone. Discussions during the hearing also emphasized the importance of considering intersecting issues such as climate change and affordable housing when developing transportation projects. Read NARC’s detailed notes from the hearing.


ADMINSTRATION
Trump Administration Releases 2020 Budget Proposal

The Trump administration earlier this week released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2020, which contains massive cuts in discretionary spending to support significant increases in spending on the military and other administration priorities. Within transportation, there is good and bad news for important regional and local priorities. The good news is that FAST Act levels would be fully funded under the President’s proposal. The bad news is that there are deep cuts on the discretionary side of the ledger. That includes a near-zeroing out of the $3 billion that Congress added for infrastructure in the most recent funding bill, much of which went to MPOs through increased funding for the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program.

The budget does, however, request an additional $1 billion for discretionary freight infrastructure grants through the INFRA program, which could be in addition to what is already provided for FY2020 through the FAST Act. The BUILD program (formerly TIGER) would be funded at $1 billion, a $100 million increase over last year, and a $300 million discretionary program is requested for a new competitive rural bridge program. Discretionary transit funding for Capital Improvement Grants (CIG) would be slashed by $1 billion and transit infrastructure grants by $200 million. Amtrak would also be cut by $1 billion, with massive restructuring of long-distance service (including replacing some train routs with buses). The DOT budget justification has lots of additional information and much more detail.

As you have no doubt heard by now, the administration’s proposal is dead on arrival in Congress, which will ignore most of what has been proposed (which makes you wonder why we spend so much time and effort talking about it!). The real action to watch is what Congress does with its budget agreement for the year. This is a more challenging endeavor than usual because the significant spending increases that resulted from the two-year budget agreement that got us through the FY2019 spending year are about to collide with draconian cuts mandated by the sequester deal, which still has two years of life left. That will be a much better barometer of what to expect during the appropriations process than anything from the administration.

Building Regional Communities

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) serves as the national voice for regions by advocating for regional cooperation as the most effective way to address a variety of community planning and development opportunities and issues.

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NARC is responsible for representing regional planning organizations in Congress and with the federal executive agencies. NARC staff work through a committee-guided and local elected official board-driven structure in developing and executing national legislative policies.

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NARC provides its members valuable information and research on key national policy issues, federal policy developments, and best practices. The association conducts enriching training sessions, conferences, workshops and webinars for its members.

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During NARC conferences members come together to share best practices and attend informative sessions on legislative and regulatory issues. Speakers include experts from the public and private sector, lawmakers, and individuals from universities and non-profit organizations.