Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill for transportation and housing programs that maintains some of the dramatic increases to programs made by the FY 2018 omnibus.
House Appropriators voted 34-17 to approve its FY 2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) spending bill. Three amendments were accepted: one manager's package, an increase of $46 million to elderly housing, and report language on trucking regulations.
Overall, THUD received $1.5 billion more than current spending levels. The budget deal reached earlier this year increased federal domestic spending for FY 2019 by only $5 billion, so few other spending bills received increased allocations. This is a testament to the work that APA members have done to make transportation and housing a priority to appropriators.
The increased allocation allowed appropriators to continue to provide rental assistance without making many drastic cuts to many programs within THUD. Two notable exceptions are the HOME program, which was cut by 12 percent, and the TIGER/BUILD program, which was cut by 50 percent. However, both programs are still funded well above their pre-FY 2018 levels.
APA members should be proud of the THUD bill, especially given the cuts proposed by the President's budget. Once again, Congress has listened to planners and rejected the draconian cuts that would have devastated communities and rejected the President's vision for the country. APA thanks Congress for this commitment to continued federal funding for programs critical to planners.
The bill now moves to the House floor, though the schedule is uncertain. The House is expected to consider a three-spending bill package, referred to as a minibus, immediately following the Memorial Day recess. Though THUD will not be included in that package, it is likely to be included in a second or third minibus in June.
The Senate is on a slower trajectory: the Appropriations Committee announced that the THUD bill will be considered the week of June 4. Allocations for all Senate bills have been announced, and THUD received $700 million less than the House bill.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Nearly every single program within HUD received at least level funding, except for the HOME program, which was cut by $162 million or 12 percent. The Community Development Block Grant program is level-funded at $3.3 billion, as is the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative at $150 million.
During the mark-up, THUD Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) insisted that the funding provided will allow for renewals of all current rental voucher holders, but Ranking Member David Price (D-N.C.) challenged the assumption and said the amount in the bill will be inadequate. HUD is expected to provide updated estimates on the cost of existing vouchers.
Department of Transportation
Most transportation programs received funding consistent with FAST Act authorized levels, though programs critical to planning did take a hit.
BUILD grants (formerly known as TIGER) were cut by $750 million or 50 percent. This cut appears dramatic, but funding for BUILD is still $250 million higher than FY 2017 levels. The bill also sets aside $250 million within BUILD for port projects.
Transit infrastructure grants were cut by $34 million or 4 percent. Capital Investment Grants were funded at $2.6 billion, $1 billion of which is available for new projects, $500 million less than current funding levels. The bill limits the federal match for New Starts projects to 50 percent.
Top image: U.S. Capitol Building. Photo by Flickr user Aaron Fellmeth Photography (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
About the Author
Tess Hembree is policy manager at Advocacy Associates.