Woodall Amendment passes House – Could create new precedent for Rescissions
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Last week, the House of Representatives voted on a 2018 budget. As part of that debate, the House voted to include the Woodall Amendment, which allows state Departments of Transportation to include funds sub-allocated to Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in their rescissions, and removes a requirement that states rescind across all programs proportionally based on unobligated funds.
If the Woodall Amendment is included in the final budget this could set a new precedent for transportation rescissions.
Periodically, Congress rescinds, or cancels, unspent transportation funds from State Departments of Transportation (DOTs). Rescissions are essentially a bookkeeping measure, which allow the USDOT to take long unspent funds off the books. However, past rescissions have resulted in disproportional cuts to programs that benefit local priorities of biking and walking including Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, Metropolitan Planning, and Transportation Alternatives.
The Transportation, HUD Appropriations bill
In the base bill, before the Woodall Amendment, Congress has exempted funds that are sub-allocated to MPOs. These funds were exempted to ensure MPOs have some certainty in their funding when they plan.
The base bill also requires proportionality across programs based on unspent balances in those programs. This means that the state must rescind the same percentage of unobligated funds across all programs, and that states cannot just gut certain programs.
Support and Opposition
As one might expect, state level associations including the National Governors Association and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials support the amendment.
Local government associations including the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, National Association of Counties, National Association of Development Associations, National Association of Regional Counties, National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors oppose the Amendment. Biking and walking advocates also oppose the amendment.
A Potential Precedent
The House 2018 budget includes $800 million of rescissions for transportation dollars (the Senate version does not include rescissions), which in the scheme of things is not a huge amount of funding. However, the FAST Act includes over $7.5 billion in rescissions due in 2020. If the Woodall Amendment is included in this budget, we can expect that rescissions into the future will not exempt MPO funding or include proportionality across programs.
The Senate has not voted on their budget yet. Once that happens, the House and Senate will conference on the bill, and agree to one compromised version. Since the Senate bill does not include rescissions, it is unclear if the Woodall Amendment will become law.