President Obama Releases 2017 Budget Proposal

Last week, President Obama released the proposed fiscal year 2017 budget – the last of his Administration. The budget includes several new proposals for local programs including funds to address the drug epidemic sweeping the nation, a clean transportation initiative, and an education and training program. Even though critics dismissed the proposal as “dead on arrival,” some proposals will be considered by Congress and funding levels for local programs may be included in final spending bills.

The proposal includes $11 billion for the prevention and elimination of family homelessness over ten years in programs operated at the local level. Housing vouchers would gain a small increase and the Community Development Block Grant program would be cut from $3 billion to $2.8 billion. HOME funding would remain at $950 million for affordable housing programs. Fair Housing Initiatives would increase to $48 million for state and local programs to end discriminatory housing practices. The Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program aimed at improving energy efficiency and reducing energy costs would be funded at $225 million, an increase of $13.4 million over last year.

The Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Assistance Programs would be funded at $215 million including $85,000 for public works, $50,000 for economic adjustment assistance, $35 million for partnership planning, and $20 million for the Regional Innovation Strategies Program.

Transportation programs would be funded at the FAST Act authorized levels. The budget also proposes a $10 per-barrel oil tax to supplement the lagging revenues in the Highway Trust Fund and pay for locally oriented transportation programs including transit, high speed rail, the TIGER grant program, and innovation grants for MPOs.

For public safety, the budget proposes a new “21st Century Justice Initiative” to help local governments combat crime and enhance community policing, as well as an additional $74 million for the COPS program.

The EPA Drinking Water State Revolving Fund would see an increase, although other water funds would be decreased under the budget proposal. The new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) would receive $20 million for low interest loans for water and wastewater projects.

With the release of the President’s budget, Administration officials are appearing before Congressional panels to begin the budget cycle. The politics of a presidential election year and all members of the House up for election will continue the clashes over budget priorities and efforts to reduce Federal spending.

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