Senate panel rejects Trump’s effort to slash transportation funding
A Senate panel has rejected President Trump’s effort to eliminate Obama-era transportation grants, instead opting to provide a funding boost for the program. By voice vote, the Appropriations subcommittee on transportation, housing and urban development approved a fiscal 2018 spending bill that includes $550 million for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.
The program was set up by the Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus package to provide an extra injection of cash for surface transportation projects but was never authorized by Congress. The grants are a popular funding tool among cities and states because of their wide range of eligibility
Trump proposed killing the $500 million-a-year program in his budget request, which a House panel followed through with in its own spending bill.
But Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who chairs the Senate subcommittee, said it was important to increase funding for the grant program “given the poor condition of our nation’s infrastructure.”
She also could be heard on a hot mic after the markup calling the administration’s approach to its budget proposal “incredibly irresponsible.”
“Whenever there was a grant, they just x-ed it out, with no metric, no thinking about it, no nothing,” Collins said to Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), ranking member on the subcommittee. “I mean it’s just incredibly irresponsible.”
The underlying spending measure also disposes of Trump’s proposal to slash funding for the Department of Transportation.
The Senate measure would provide $19.5 billion in discretionary funding for the agency — which is $978 million above current levels and $3.3 billion more than what Trump requested for the agency.
It also rejects the White House’s proposal to eliminate long-distance routes for Amtrak and provides the passenger rail system with the fully authorized level of $1.6 billion.
The legislation also would allow $45 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the Federal-Aid Highways Program, provide $1.1 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration’s modernization program, and provide $2.1 billion for the Capital Investment Grant program.