With a government shutdown looming as Passenger Transport went to press, legislators from both houses on Capitol Hill were presenting proposals on budgets for Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012. Given the all-around push for reductions in spending, public transportation investment is still very much in flux.
FY 2011 Budget
The current Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the federal government was set to expire at midnight Friday, April 8. Congress must either enact another short-term CR to fund the remainder of FY 2011, or reach a compromise on a package for spending by that deadline to avert a government shutdown.
On April 5, the House Appropriations Committee filed a one-week CR that would fund the federal government through April 15. This bill proposes to reduce funding for the current year by an additional $12 billion below FY 2010 levels; President Obama has spoken forcefully against further CRs. Previous CRs have already made $10 billion in reductions government-wide. Among the reductions in the one-week CR proposed by the House are cuts in four programs critical to transit and passenger rail:
* $1.5 billion for High-Speed Rail. This proposal would reduce funding for the High-Speed Rail program from $2.5 billion provided in FY 2010 to $1 billion for FY 2011, the same level proposed in the President’s budget for this year.
* $280 million for Capital Investment Grants (New Starts). The proposal would reduce funding for the New Starts Program from $2 billion in FY 2010 to $1.72 billion in FY 2011. The bulk of these funds would come from the canceled New Jersey ARC Tunnel project.
* $3.27 million for FTA Research and University Research Centers. The proposal would reduce funding for this program from $65.67 billion in FY 2010 to $62.4 billion in FY 2011.
* $40 million for Rail and Transit Security Grants. The proposal would reduce Department of Homeland Security funding for this program from $300 million in FY 2010 to $260 million in FY 2011.
FY 2012 Budget
Nearly simultaneous with the competing proposals to fund the rest of FY 2011, Congress is also wrestling with FY 2012 budget proposals.
On April 6, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced his proposed budget blueprint for FY 2012. The proposed budget resolution would reduce spending for all transportation programs by 31 percent.
The Budget Committee stated that these reductions would ensure funding for transportation programs at levels supported by trust fund receipts, avoiding the need to transfer general fund dollars into the Highway Trust Fund to keep it solvent in the near future.
The committee asserts these reductions can be made because the Government Accountability Office has reported many duplicative transportation programs.
While the proposal does not make specific recommendations on where within the transportation budget these cuts would come from, it does not recommend continued funding for high-speed rail projects.
In response to this proposal, APTA President William Millar urged the House to reject reductions on transportation investment, including public transportation and high-speed intercity passenger rail programs.
“The budget plan proposed by Chairman Ryan would place ill-conceived limits on federal investment in transportation,” said Millar. “The House budget plan needlessly restricts investment options by calling for all transportation programs to be cut 30 percent or more. This would halt thousands of projects needed in the years ahead to bring our nation’s public transportation infrastructure up to a state of good repair and build the capacity for millions of new riders.”
Millar added: “Instead of adopting limits on transportation investment, Congress needs to pass a well-funded, six-year, multimodal surface transportation bill. With gas prices rising steadily, now is not the time to place misguided restrictions on public transportation and high-speed and intercity passenger rail investment.”
The chairman’s initial Budget Resolution must be approved by the full Budget Committee and then agreed to by the full House and Senate.