New Congressional rules effect transportation funding
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Posted by: Melanie Bowzer
The House of Representatives recently voted on new House rules that are not laws, but rather policies on how the House will govern itself. The Democratic House adopted two new changes, and rejected one change, that will affect transportation funding.
First, they are making it easier for Congress to repeal rescissions in the FAST Act. The FAST Act authorized more funding than the contract authority it gave to states. Essentially, Congress said that of every $100 we give states under the FAST Act, we are rescinding, or taking back, ~$2.50 in 2021. The FAST Act as written requires states to ‘give back’ $7.6 billion in authorization authority in 2021.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has been pushing Congress to repeal the rescissions, and this change gets Congress much closer to doing so. Repeal would be good for bicycling and walking. In the past, we’ve seen states disproportionately use transportation enhancements/alternatives and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) funding for rescissions.
The House also repealed the “Ryan Rule” which required transfers from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to be offset by spending cuts or revenue increases elsewhere. The HTF is expected to need a bail out in 2021, and this change means funds transferred from other government sources to the HTF will not need such ‘pay fors’. This could make it easier to get a transportation bill passed.
Finally, the House rejected a request from Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to create a new subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, on funding for infrastructure. Blumenauer had hoped to use this subcommittee to explore funding solutions for transportation. With or without the subcommittee, he will continue to push for Congress to sustainably fund transportation.