Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill
The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill provides $52 billion in discretionary budget authority for fiscal year 2015, a 2.3% increase over 2014 levels and 13.1% below the President’s request. The legislation includes funding for the Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies. The spending levels in the bill do not exceed the 302(b) allocations adopted by the Appropriations Committee, which are in aggregate within the overall spending level approved by the House in the Budget Resolution (H. Con. Res. 96) and the Bipartisan Budget Act.
The measure provides funding for transportation agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and the Federal Highway Program. Additionally, it provides funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, primarily tenant-based and project-based assistance. The President’s budget proposed to convert a number of discretionary transportation programs to mandatory spending. In this way, his budget circumvents the caps by proposing to fund $8.9 billion for discretionary programs outside the discretionary caps. The House-passed budget resolution and the appropriations bills instead fund traditionally discretionary programs within the bipartisan caps agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act. In addition, until separate legislation is enacted providing mandatory funding for these programs, the President’s budget can only be implemented by providing discretionary funding for these programs. As a result, the table above making comparisons to the President’s budget does not include his proposed reclassifications of discretionary spending. Key elements of the appropriations bill include the following:
Federal Aviation Administration. The bill includes $12.4 billion for the FAA, a 0.8% increase compared to FY 2014 enacted levels and slightly lower than the President’s request. The bill provides full funding for all air traffic control personnel, including air traffic controllers, safety inspectors, and support personnel.
Federal Railroad Administration. This bill provides $1.4 billion to the Federal Railroad Administration. This represents a 12.1% decrease from 2014 levels. The majority of these funds are provided to Amtrak to be used for capital improvements to the nation’s rail lines. Also Included are policy reforms to reduce unnecessary costs and prohibit federal funding for routes where Amtrak offers a discount of more than 50% from peak fares. No funds are provided for high-speed rail projects. This bill increases funding for rail safety and research programs to ensure the safety of communities and passengers of the rail system.
Federal Transit Administration. The bill provides $1.9 billion to the FTA, a 13.7% decrease compared to FY 2014 levels and 33.4% below the President’s request. This includes $1.6 billion for Capital Investment Grants for transit projects. Additionally the bill allows for $8.6 billion in state and local transit grant funding provided through the Highway Trust Fund.
Federal Highway Program. This bill provides approximately $40.3 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be utilized for the Federal Highway Program. Funding is contingent upon the enactment of new transportation authorization legislation, as the current authorization is set to expire at the end of fiscal year 2014. Total bill spending from the Highway Trust Fund, including both highway and transit programs, exceeds currently projected 2015 trust fund resources by approximately $8 billion.
Public and Indian Housing Programs. This bill includes almost $36.1 billion for Public and Indian Housing programs. This represents a 0.5% decrease from FY 2014 levels and is 3% below the President’s 2015 request. Included in the total are $15.4 billion for tenant-based rental assistance, 14.9% above FY 2014 enacted levels and 4.3% below the President’s request, and $9.3 billion for project-based rental assistance, 5.8% below FY 2014 levels and slightly higher than the President’s request. The funding level provided continues assistance to all families currently served by the program and fully funds the President’s request for veterans’ housing vouchers at $75 million.
Federal Housing Administration Credit Programs. As seen in the above chart, Federal Housing Administration credit programs are currently projected to carry a large negative subsidy under the current scoring rules. However, current scoring rules fail to capture the full cost to the federal government of credit programs. Numerous independent observers, including the Congressional Budget Office, have raised the possibility of adopting a fair-value accounting approach for federal credit programs which would provide a more comprehensive measure of the cost of federal credit programs. Under a fair-value estimate, the FHA’s credit programs would show a net cost to the Treasury.
Community Planning and Development. The bill contains $6.2 billion in funding for Community Planning and Development Programs. This represents a decrease of 5.8% compared to FY 2014 enacted levels and is 5.4% below the President’s request. The bill provides $3 billion in funding for the Community Development Block Grant program. This is slightly below the FY 2014 enacted levels and is 7.1% higher than the President’s request.