WASHINGTON — The 138-page proposed fiscal year 2021 budget issued by President Donald Trump’s administration on February 10 proposes to reauthorize surface transportation funding to the tune of $810 billion over the next decade, along with an additional one-time payment of $190 billion to support a broad mixture of “infrastructure investments” across a range of industrial sectors.
That would add up to over $1 trillion in direct federal transportation and infrastructure funding between 2021 and 2030 represents a “distinct departure” from the administration’s 2018 outline, which sought to leverage $200 billion of direct federal funding into $1 trillion in overall investment with state/local and private contributions, according to an article in the Journal, the official publication of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
In a related development, published reports said the Trump administration on Monday proposed cutting billions in discretionary spending in next year’s Department of Transportation budget, while also calling for broad increases in spending over the next decade, a disconnect that left some in Congress and outside groups struggling to interpret the administration’s intentions.
As for the infrastructure proposal the DOT said with the expiration of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in September, the time to take bold action to address these and other challenges is now. “Building on the foundation provided in the FAST Act, the administration’s funding proposal would largely grow by almost 4 percent annually through fiscal year [FY] 2030 … that will provide states and other entities with dependable and predictable funding for an entire decade,” the DOT said.
Near term, that translates into an $89 billion budget request for USDOT FY 2021 funding – a nearly 2 percent increase above FY 2020 appropriations, of which $64 billion would come via the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). The administration noted, however, that its request for $21.6 billion in discretionary transportation budget authority for FY 2021 is a $3.2 billion or 13 percent decrease from what was enacted for FY 2020.
An analysis of the budget proposal by American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials policy staff noted that such fiscal proposals by the White House represent “the traditional first step” in budget negotiations with Congress towards final FY 2021 appropriations measures.
The proposed DOT FY2021 proposed budget cuts discretionary spending by 13 percent, including deep reductions in spending on Amtrak and airport grants. It also cuts more than $2 billion in highway infrastructure funds and more than $500 million in transit grants.
Joel Szabat, the Transportation Department’s acting undersecretary, pointed to the deep shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, which covers road and transit projects nationwide.
The fund’s main source of money, the gas tax, has failed to keep up with inflation or national needs.
As it always has been, the argument over whether to raise the gas tax to replenish the fund remains a major sticking point in the discussion about how to fund any infrastructure plan.
Tolls and a vehicle miles traveled tax are other funding options that has been discussed within the circle of transportation stakeholders.
“We estimate that there’s $261 billion in additional Highway Trust Fund cash that’s required to support the administration’s proposal over 10 years,” Szabat said.
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