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May 17 — A draft transportation-housing spending bill would fully fund the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic control division and includes what the Obama administration has called a problematic rider to block a truck driver hours-of-service rule.
The $58.2 billion draft measure, released by the House Appropriations Committee, is a tentative win for opponents of an air traffic control spin-off plan advanced by the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee. The trucker-rule language in the new spending measure is also controversial.
A statement released with the draft of the fiscal 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill said the legislation would extend a prohibition against a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rule that would establish a 70-hour maximum work week for truckers and a 34-hour rest period. President Barack Obama on May 16 threatened to veto a final appropriations bill if it included that kind of policy rider (See previous story, 05/17/16).
A $56.5 billion companion Senate appropriations bill (H.R. 2577) being debated on the Senate floor this week also would change the hours-of-service rule by establishing a 73-hour work week for truck drivers.
Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), ranking member of the House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, has said House Democrats would not support efforts to attach “poison pill” riders to an appropriations bill. The subcommittee is slated to mark up the spending measure on May 18.
Overall, the House THUD bill would provide $19.2 billion in discretionary funding to the Department of Transportation. And, as with the Senate version, the House measure would fully fund the FAA's air traffic control division.
House appropriators have opposed a proposal to remove air traffic control from FAA included in authorizing legislation (H.R. 4441) that was approved by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Still, the THUD bill calls for the FAA to submit an annual report describing its strategy for hiring and training air traffic controllers, including hiring goals for each fiscal year. The annual report would be due on March 31 and the FAA would be fined $100,000 for each day that it is delayed.
The FAA would be given a $16.3 billion total budget under the proposal, including $1 billion to fund its transition from a radio- to satellite-based navigation system known as NextGen.
The House's draft spending measure would provide $44 billion for the federal highways program, which is $905 million above the enacted level for fiscal year 2016 and in line with the level authorized in a five-year highway program reauthorization known as the FAST Act.
With a $450 million proposed allocation for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program, the new THUD bill falls $75 million below the Senate's proposal and far short of the $1.25 billion requested by the president.
The House spending measure sticks to the new Amtrak funding structure established by the FAST Act, which separates appropriations for the Northeast Corridor from funding for other routes on the network. The Northeast Corridor would receive $420 million while Amtrak's national network would get about $1 billion for fiscal 2017. Rail safety and research programs would be funded at $300 million, which is $12 million above last year's enacted level. No funding would be provided for high-speed rail.
House appropriators proposed a $12.5 billion budget for the Federal Transit Administration, including $408 million to fund state and local capital investments in rapid-transit and commuter rail projects through a “Smart Starts” competitive grant program.
“This bill invests in critical national infrastructure to help move our people and products as safely and efficiently as possible,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). “It prioritizes important projects, making the best use of every transportation dollar.”
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The text of the House appropriations bill is available here: http://src.bna.com/e3b.
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