A U.S. Senate appropriations subcommittee has voted to beef up 2018 budgetary transportation spending in direct contradiction to the funding cuts President Donald Trump and the House included in their budget proposals, according to The Hill.
Lawmakers allocated $550 million for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants; $19.5 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Transportation; $1.6 billion for Amtrak; $1.1. billion for the Federal Aviation Administration; and $2.1 billion for the Capital Investment Grant Program. The panel not only reversed some proposed cuts but also increased their funding.
Subcommittee chair Sen. Susan Collins, (R-ME), called the Trump administration's budget proposal "incredibly irresponsible."
After exciting pre-election crowds with talk of a massive infrastructure spend, Trump has since sent mixed messages about just how much federal investment he's willing to support.
His budget proposed a direct federal contribution of $200 billion over a 10-year period — essentially seed money that is expected to grow into $1 trillion of investment. Additionally, the budget advocates for helping state and local agencies access low-interest loans, calls for increased tolling and rolls back what the administration contends to be costly, schedule-killing regulations.
Trump also took a big knife to federal DOT funding, cutting it by 13%, in addition to eliminating or reducing the programs that this Senate appropriations panel decided to fund. Such back-and-forth has left some in the construction industry scratching their heads and awaiting more details.
In a prepared statement in response to the release of the president's full budget proposal in May, Associated General Contractors of America CEO Stephen Sandherr said the organization considers the document to be a starting point.
One item absent from the budget proposal is funding for a U.S.–Mexico border wall, another major campaign talking point. The Department of Homeland Security has estimated that such a project could cost as much as $22 billion. So far, however, the only hard funding proposal is for $1.6 billion — an amount that the DHS said will take the project just past the prototype phase.
Trump is already backtracking on the scope of the project, telling a group of reporters that only 700 to 900 miles of new wall construction is necessary because of existing barriers, both natural and man-made, on the 2,000-mile border.