Omnibus Spending Package Details
Congress passed the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill to keep the government open through the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2016. The legislation includes funding for virtually the entire federal government, totaling approximately $1.15 trillion. The bill avoided the automatic spending cuts set back in 2013 (known as sequestration) in addition to some last minute controversial amendments that would have sunk the agreement and threatened federal government shutdown. The bill includes funding for key local government programs, mostly at current spending levels.
In a separate last minute action, lawmakers were able to agree on a bill extending tax incentives that include several local priorities. Although Congress avoided some of the more controversial amendments, Republican lawmakers made it clear that they would continue to fight administration environmental and energy rules, including the Waters of the United States wetlands pollution rule as part of the FY 2017 appropriations effort.
The final bill includes $567.6 billion for the 2016 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (THUD) program. The THUD bill adopts the policies and funding levels from the newly-passed FAST Act while reversing cuts from the TIGER grant program to maintain the current $500 million funding level. The package continues a restriction on double trailer trucks on the national highway system, even though it was in both appropriations bills. Transit commuters earned a huge win when the bill restored parity between parking and transit benefits, making the change permanent. Both will now receive up to $255 per month. Lawmakers cut the high-speed rail program and funded Amtrak at $1.39 billion. Transit programs were funded with $2.2 billion for New Starts grants, full funding for local small starts grants, and an additional $870 million for transit operating assistance.
With the exception of the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) that remained at current spending levels, all U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs received increases. The breakdown includes: $3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Program (at current spending levels); $950 million for the HOME Investment Partnership program ($50 million above FY15); a $115 million increase for Homeless Assistance Grants to $2.25 billion; a $45 million increase to $125 million for Choice Neighborhoods; and a $115 million increase for Public Housing and Rental Assistance to $26.9 billion. Congress also created a permanent extension of the nine-percent Low-Incoming Housing Tax Credit and extends the New Markets Tax Credit for five years as part of the “tax extender” bill.
In regards to energy, $3.4 billion is slated for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (same as 2015 enacted level; $25 million more than the House version) and $2.073 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy ($160 million more than last year). The spending package extends authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund by three years – without any program changes and increases funding with an additional set aside for a competitive urban parks grant program.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency programs remained level or below FY 15 levels. The Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund was cut by $50 million to $1.394 billion; Brownfields programs were funded at last year’s level – $80 million; and Superfund projects remained funded at $1 billion. Congress failed to halt implementation of EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rules, but lawmakers promised to fight the rule during next year’s budget discussions.
The U.S. Department of Justice programs increased funding for state and local grant programs by $174 million to $2.5 billion, including $187 million the COPS program; $70 million for programs to improve police-community relations, including $22.5 million for the purchase of body-worn cameras for police; and $476 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants.
The. U.S. Department of Homeland Security funding includes $2.5 billion for first responder grants ($10 million more than last year), including $1.5 billion for state and local grants; $690 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants; $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants; $50 million for programs coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help states and local communities prepare for, prevent, and respond to emergent threats of violent extremism and complex, coordinated terrorist attacks.