Fight Coming Over Clean Air Regulations

The Trump administration signaled this week that it could end California’s long-standing authority to set its own limits on air pollution, largely over a disagreement regarding fuel efficiency standards. The administration faces an April 1 deadline to decide if more stringent fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, established by the Obama administration, are attainable or need to be reworked. The federal government is seeking to leverage the waiver granted by Congress to California in 1970 that allows the state to set pollution standards that are more stringent than the federal Clean Air Act requires, using it as a wedge to convince California to agree to reductions in fuel efficiency standards. Automobile manufacturers are concerned that separate standards at the federal and California level – the state where more cars are sold than any other – would be overly burdensome.

Letter Outlines Concerns with AV Start Act

A letter from five Democratic senators outlines concerns regarding automated vehicle legislation, which has passed out of committee and awaits action by the full Senate. The holds placed on the legislation by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Ed Markey (D-MA) were previously known, but the letter revealed that Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Tom Udall (D-NM) also have concerns. The concerns expressed in the letter focus primarily on safety and preemption of state and local authority to regulate automated vehicles.

Cost and Timetable of California High-Speed Rail Shifts Again

According to a newly-released business plan, the cost of California’s high-speed train between San Francisco and Los Angeles has increased by 20 percent – from $64 billion to $77 billion – and will open in 2033, four years later than anticipated. The connection from San Francisco to the Central Valley is projected to open in 2029, also four years later than initial projections.

President Releases Budget that Would Undercut Funding to Regions

On February 12, the president officially submitted his fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget proposal and addendum to Congress. Much like last year’s FY 2018 budget proposal, the FY 2019 recommendations would make significant programmatic and funding changes to federal programs:

  • The proposed budget would ratchet up the amount of money made available for military spending. The president’s budget would allocate $647 billion for defense spending in FY 2019 – the topline level established by the recent congressional two-year budget caps deal.
  • The recommendations advise Congress to enact significant funding reductions and change program benefits and participation requirements for mandatory federal programs (including SNAP, Medicare, and Medicaid) and a wide range of non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs.
  • The president’s budget would allocate only $540 billion for NDD spending – $57 billion less than the budget cap Congress set for FY 2019. This leaves a noteworthy $107 billion parity gap between defense and NDD funding levels in the new fiscal year.

The president’s FY 2019 budget recommendations would either slash or eliminate funds for many of the NDD programs regions use to address housing, transportation, health, workforce, energy, and other community needs. This is likely to place a greater burden on local governments everywhere, requiring them to devote more staff and financial resources to ensure the needs of their residents are met.

The following is a summary of the recommendations in the president’s budget and addendum for selected departments, agencies, and programs that we are monitoring because of their potential impact on communities:

NOTE: These numbers are comparisons to the FY 2017 enacted or actual levels since the FY 2018 omnibus was not yet passed at the time of this publication. The department/agency totals reflect discretionary funding unless stated otherwise.

U.S. Census Bureau
FY 2019 proposed funding level: $3.8 B (+2.3 billion, 153 percent)

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
FY 2019 proposed funding level: $19.2 B (-$3.5 billion, 15 percent)

  • Sharp decreases to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next ten years (-$213 billion, 30 percent). The proposal also includes other benefit and eligibility cuts that will cause at least 4 million people to lose their SNAP benefits
  • Limits eligibility in the crop insurance program and caps premium subsidies
  • Proposes a $136 million cut to conservation programs
  • Zeroes out Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program (-$318 million over the next four years)

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
FY 2019 proposed funding level: $30.6 B (+$521 million, 2 percent)

  • Zeroes out Weatherization and Intergovernmental programs funding (-$278 million, 100 percent)
  • Significantly reduces funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which houses programs focused on sustainable transportation; renewable energy such as wind, solar, water, and geothermal, and energy efficiencies such as advanced manufacturing and building technologies (-$1.3 billion, 66 percent)
  • Most of the proposed increases in funding would be for fossil energy programs and national nuclear security activities

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
FY 2019 proposed funding level: $95.4 B (+$9.1 billion, 11 percent)

  • Zeroes out Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program funding (-$3.4 billion)
  • Zeroes out Social Services Block Grant (-$1.7 billion)
  • Reduces the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant and eliminates the related TANF Contingency Fund
  • Provides a total of $10 billion in additional discretionary funds to address the opioid crisis and mental illness

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
FY 2019 proposed funding level: $41.2 B (-$6.8 billion, 14 percent)

  • Zeroes out Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program funding (-$3 billion)
  • Zeroes out HOME Investment Partnerships Program funding (-$950 million)
  • Decreases funding across HUD’s rental assistance programs (-11 percent)
  • Low-income households that receive housing support would now have to pay 35 percent of their income for housing, rather than the current 30 percent

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
FY 2019 proposed funding level: $10.9 B (-$1.1 billion, 9 percent)

  • Zeroes out Senior Community Service Employment Program funding (-$400 million)
  • Keeps Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding at or just above level funding
    • WIOA Adult: (+$4.9 million, 1 percent)
    • WIOA Youth: (±0 million, 0 percent)
    • WIOA Dislocated Worker: (+$5.8 million, 1 percent)
  • Increases funding for national apprenticeship program activities (+$105 million, 111 percent)

U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT)
FY 2019 proposed discretionary funding level: $15.9 B (-$3.4 billion, 18 percent)

  • Zeroes out TIGER grant program funding (-$500 million)
  • Zeroes out New Starts program funding for new projects, limiting funding to projects with existing full funding grant agreements only (-$1.4 billion)
  • Decreases Essential Air Services program funding (-57 million)
  • Reduces federal support for Amtrak and other rail programs (-$892 million)
  • Significantly reduces funding for Transportation Planning, Research & Development (-$4.1 million), Research and Technology (-$6.0 million), Cybersecurity Initiative (-$5.0 million) and other programs housed under the Secretary of Transportation

U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA)
FY 2019 proposed funding level: $0 (-$300 million, 100 percent)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
FY 2019 proposed funding level: $6.1 B (-$2.1 billion, 26 percent)

  • Small increase for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (+13.1 million, 1 percent), but a decrease for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (-81.1 million, 9 percent)
  • Increases Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program funding (+10 million, 50 percent)
  • Decreases State and Local and Tribal Air Quality Management Programs (-$67 million, 29 percent)
  • Reduces brownfields projects funding under State and Tribal Assistance Grants (-$26.4 million, 30 percent)
  • Decreasing the overall funding they are dedicating to provide Americans with clean air (-$355 million, 46 percent), water (-$796 million, 22 percent), and land (-$171 million, 14 percent)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FY 2019 proposed funding level: (-$355 million, 8 percent)

  • Largest cut to the agency is to the Federal Disaster Assistance program (-$379 million, 13 percent)

It would be easy to say that this budget was “dead on arrival” or that it will have no impact on Congress’ work, but the reality is that no one should write-off the president’s budget proposal. The document often serves as a framework for initial appropriations bills in the House and Senate. Additionally, many of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s priorities have been included in this budget proposal, including cuts to entitlement programs – especially the TANF program – and serious consideration to impose work requirements on households that receive social benefits.

Congress has yet to pass a final appropriations bill for FY 2018, so enacting the president’s proposed course of action for FY 2019 is unlikely to happen anytime soon. But depending on the outcome of the midterm elections, more members of Congress could potentially support the president’s priorities for FY 2019 than those currently in the 115th Congress.

NARC will continue to monitor and report the budget and appropriations debate as it unfolds. If you have specific questions about FY 2018 or FY 2019 appropriations, please reach out to Neil Bomberg (neil@narc.org) or Maci Morin (maci.morin@narc.org).

2018 Legislative Priorities & Updated Member Call Info

Members: Take a look at NARC’s policies and priorities for 2018 below. Additionally, NARC will host a member call to review these policies and priorities, explain how NARC staff are working toward achieving these objectives, and share best practices and tips for educating and influencing Congress.

NARC Member Call! NARC’s Policies and Priorities for 2018
March 14, 3:30 – 4:30 PM ET, Please note the new call time!
Dial: (571) 317-3122 / Access code: 304-259-525
Contact Neil Bomberg (neil@narc.org) or Maci Morin (maci.morin@narc.org) with questions.

Infrastructure Package
NARC urges the federal government to increase direct funding to expand and maintain the nation’s infrastructure, and provide incentives to attract private financing for the subset of projects that can be supported in this manner. The new infrastructure package should resolve the Highway Trust Fund’s funding shortfall, fund regional planning organizations, support multimodal investments, provide flexibility in the projects it supports, and fund existing grant channels.

Broadband
NARC urges Congress to acknowledge that local governments are a key player creating and incentivizing broadband deployment, recognize local authority over rights of way and other public infrastructure assets, encourage public-private partnerships, establish new grant programs to fund broadband deployment, and increase funding for programs targeted at unserved and underserved communities.

Disaster Recovery
NARC urges Congress to immediately reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program. In addition, Congress should solicit input and guidance from locally elected officials and regional councils on federal emergency preparedness and disaster recovery programs and initiatives. Congress should allocate emergency preparedness, response, and recovery funding directly to regions and localities that know the immediate needs of their communities best.

Farm Bill
NARC urges Congress to support sustained funding for all twelve titles of the Farm Bill to strengthen rural infrastructure (including broadband, water, and wastewater systems), protect our nation’s food supply, increase access to healthy food, and promote environmental stewardship and conservation. Congress should reauthorize the USDA rural development programs that offer critical investments in our nation’s most underserved communities, including the Strategic Economic and Community Program that promotes regional collaboration.

Protect Local Programs
NARC urges Congress to maintain support for federal programs such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Economic Development Administration, water infrastructure investment and maintenance, funding for senior programs, and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that ensure municipalities, counties, and regions meet the needs of their communities.

Funding for the 2020 Census
NARC urges Congress to increase Census funding by no less than $300 million above the current funding level, so that the Census Bureau can adequately prepare for the 2020 Decennial Census and support efforts to accurately count historically hard-to-reach populations.

Budget/Appropriations
NARC urges Congress to support parity between defense and non-defense discretionary spending for fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

Substance Abuse Crisis
NARC supports federal efforts to partner with local and state officials to help address the addiction and misuse of opioids, including prescription pain relievers, heroin, fentanyl, and other substances. NARC also urges Congress to provide emergency supplemental funding to local governments for medicine-assisted treatment programs, expanded drug abuse prevention and education efforts, naloxone, and drug take-back programs.

Brownfields
NARC urges Congress to reauthorize the Brownfields Reauthorization Act of 2017 (HR 1758), which would increase cleanup grant amounts, create a multi-purpose grant, allow for administrative costs, and clarify liability issues for local governments. NARC also urges Congress to at least maintain level funding for fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

House and Senate Drafts for Farm Bill Expected Soon

Agricultural committee leaders in the House and Senate are pushing for draft Farm Bill legislation to be released by the end of March. The president’s FY 2019 budget proposal urged Congress to consider significant changes to the Farm Bill, some of which may make its way into initial drafts.

These changes include:

  • Reducing SNAP by $214 billion over the next 10 years;
  • Making programmatic changes to SNAP, replacing some benefits with food packages and strengthening work requirements;
  • Limiting farm subsidies to those with an income of $500,000 or less;
  • Reducing the average premium subsidy for crop insurance to 48 percent; and
  • Cutting the conservation stewardship program.

We could also see the separation of SNAP from the Farm Bill, which Democrats and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue have previously spoken against.

NARC on the Hill: CDBG Coalition Meetings

Last week, NARC attended Hill meetings with the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Coalition on the Senate side to stress the importance of CDBG grants to local governments. In both the FY 2018 and FY 2019 president’s budgets, the administration recommended Congress to zero out CDBG’s appropriated funding. The House has already passed a bill for FY 2018 that allocated $2.9 billion for CDBG grants. The CDBG coalition met with Senate offices to urge them to appropriate at least $3.3 billion to CDBG as they as making final preparations for their FY 2018 Transportation-HUD appropriations bill, as well as for early consideration in FY 2019. NARC will continue to attend Hill meetings this week to advocate for adequate CDBG funding.

Broward MPO Program Video

Broward MPO in Fort Lauderdale, Florida prepared a short video to highlight their Complete Streets and Other Localized Initiatives Program (CSLIP). The video explains the program and application process for receiving federal grants. Mobility hubs, traffic technology advancements, and intersection improvements are all acceptable projects for CSLIP funds, which are available to local governments, transit agencies, school districts, and other local and regional agencies.

Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Timing Highly Uncertain

Yesterday House T&I Chairman Shuster said that it will be difficult to implement the president’s infrastructure plan this year. Shuster hopes to pass a bill before August recess, but Congress may need to vote after the election in a lame-duck session. His comments follow doubts expressed by both Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and John Thune about Congress’ ability to pass a bill this year. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has focused her remarks on the efforts to eliminate regulations and streamline permitting, and has not spoken to a timeline for implementing the administrations’ full proposal.