Senate Appropriators OK $2.4B Hike in Transportation, Housing Spending

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By Shaun Courtney

A $60 billion Transportation-Housing spending bill that Senate appropriators approved July 25 would increase annual funding by $2.4 billion, including nearly $1 billion more for transportation.

The fiscal 2018 bill was approved by a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on a bipartisan voice vote. It would provide $19.47 billion for the Transportation Department, an increase of $978 million above the FY17 enacted level.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) subcommittee, asked members to hold any amendments for the full-committee markup scheduled for July 27.

The Trump administration’s transportation budget would have cut spending by $2.4 billion, but appropriators sought to fund “successful and popular programs,” Collins said during the subcommittee markup.

The FY18 bill would fund programs like TIGER transportation grants and wouldn’t spin off traffic control from the federal government.

The bill would allocate $40.24 billion for the Housing and Urban Development Department, an increase of $1.4 billion over the previous year.

Transportation Programs Retained

The bill would fund TIGER grant programs at $550 million, unlike the House bill and President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, both of which cut the program entirely.

The Senate bill also would provide funding for transit programs that faced cuts under the administration’s budget. New Starts programs would get $2.13 billion in funding, sufficient to provide for all existing such transit projects and those for which officials are expected to sign agreements in FY18.

Amtrak also would fare well in the Senate bill, with $1.6 billion for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and national network trains. The administration’s budget would have eliminated the latter program, which serves cities on long routes across the country.

Air Traffic Control Wouldn’t Be Privatized

Collins said much of the increase in the transportation budget is to maintain the country’s aviation system.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman BIll Shuster’s (R-Pa.) proposal to remove the air traffic control function from the Federal Aviation Administration is a “solution looking for a problem,” Collins said.

The Senate bill rejected as “short-sighted and counterproductive” the effort to switch air traffic control programs to a nongovernmental board, subcommittee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said.

Housing Programs

Housing and Urban Development programs, including those serving homeless youth and veterans, would receive a $1.4 billion increase in the Senate bill. Homeless Assistance Grants would be funded at $2.46 billion.

The Senate bill proposes $3 billion in funding for Community Block Development Grants, which the president also proposed eliminating.

The HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which help localities and nonprofits secure and maintain affordable housing, would be funded at $950 million.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shaun Courtney in Washington at scourtney@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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