ADMINSTRATIONTrump 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.