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ARTBA Weighs in on the Obama Administration’s DOT budget for FY 2013

Tue February 14, 2012 - National Edition
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The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) today released its analysis of the Obama Administration’s DOT budget for FY 2013:

"The Obama Administration’s budget for FY 2013, released February 13, proposes the U.S. government invest $74.5 billion in transportation improvements in FY 2013, an increase of $1.7 billion over the amount invested in FY 2011 and about $1.9 billion, or 2.6 percent, above the amount enacted for FY 2012.

Within the FY 2013 total, a $1 billion increase is proposed for passenger rail while funding for the airport improvement program would be cut almost $1 billion, based on a proposal to eliminate federal funds for large airports. Modest increases are proposed for most other modes and programs, basically tracking inflation.

For surface transportation, including highways, public transportation, passenger rail and highway safety, the Administration proposes a six-year, FY 2013-2018, investment total of $476 billion. This includes $305.3 billion for the federal highway program, $107.8 billion for the public transportation program, $47.1 billion for passenger rail, $3.4 billion for a new National Infrastructure Program, and $12.4 billion for highway safety programs. In addition, the Administration proposes $15.2 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration in FY 2013 plus $1.7 billion for other U.S. DOT agencies, but with no data for ensuing fiscal years.

The FY 2013 budget also advocates an additional $50 billion investment in FY 2012 to jump-start transportation improvements and add jobs, titled “Immediate Transportation Investments.” This proposal for a large one-time injection of federal transportation investment in FY 2012 was also a significant element of last year’s budget submission, but was not approved by Congress and is not likely to be acted on this year.

While this year’s $476 billion for a six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill appears to be significantly less than last year’s $556 billion recommendation, last year’s total also included the proposed $50 billion for the Immediate Transportation Investment and $30 billion for the National Infrastructure Bank, which is not in this year’s reauthorization proposal. When the last two items are subtracted from last year’s $556 billion total, the amounts recommended for investment in surface transportation are the same.

In a major difference from last year’s budget, the Administration this year has identified a funding source for its proposed investments in highways and public transportation — budgetary savings resulting from the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The budget proposes a general fund transfer of $38.5 billion into the Highway Trust Fund in FY 2013 based on this proposal, and a total six-year transfer of $231 billion. Last year, the Administration simply offered to work with Congress to identify the resources needed to finance its proposal.

In another major difference, the budget for FY 2013 no longer includes a recommendation for or any discussion of a National Infrastructure Bank. Instead, the budget recommends creation of a National Infrastructure Investments program, which would provide $3.4 billion over the six-year reauthorization period for capital investment in virtually all surface transportation modes, similar to the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The FY 2013 budget also reiterates a number of program changes recommended last year, including collapsing 55 current highway programs into five programs that would give states and localities more flexibility in the use of their federal highway funds. The budget also repeats last year’s proposal to expand the Highway Trust Fund into a Transportation Trust Fund that would finance federal investment in other surface transportation modes as well as highways and transit.

Nonetheless, with a four-year FAA authorization bill already enacted and with both Houses of Congress already far along on their own bills to reauthorize the highway and transit programs, the Administration’s budget proposal will likely have only modest impact on the outcome."

A more detailed analysis of the budget’s transportation funding recommendations is provided here.

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