On Tuesday, the House will vote on the FY16 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2577
). The bill, commonly referred to at T-HUD, provides $55.3 billion in discretionary budget authority, which is a $1.5 billion increase above the current funding.
The commonly cited $50 billion figure only tells half the story, though. As The Heritage Foundation explains, various provisions in T-HUD mean “budget authority doubles to $108 billion.” Heritage continues:
“The bill assumes a highway authorization extension with funding for fiscal year (FY) 2016 at current levels, or about $51 billion in contract authority (the ability of the government to contract for work to be done). Therefore, the bill provides $41.6 billion for spending from the Highway Trust Fund on highway projects and $8.6 billion for spending on transit formula grants. However, the Congressional Budget Office projects revenues flowing into the Highway Trust Fund to be roughly $40 billion in 2016—not enough to cover the spending authorized in the bill.”
Since 2008, the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) has required $54 billion in bailouts. Absent serious change, another $11 billion will be required this year. Put another way, a vote in favor of T-HUD is an explicit endorsement of bailing out our nation’s surface transportation program.
In addition to the concerns surrounding transportation, T-HUD contains increasing spending levels for project-based rental assistance ($10.6 billion) and tenant-based rental programs ($19.9 billion) by $1.54 billion above current funding levels. The bill funds more than a dozen programs that deserve elimination, including $1.14 billion in subsidies to Amtrak. Earlier this year, more than 100 lawmakers opposed long-term reauthorization. Not only did that reauthorization fail to make serious reforms is also called for increasing the authorized subsidy for money-losing long distance routes rather than placing these routes on a path to fiscal sustainability.
Rather than provide “tremendous budgetary resources to a bankrupt Highway Trust Fund” and continue the cycle of taxpayer-funded bailouts, Congress should pursue reforms that empower states and localities while reducing federal control, both in terms of finances and regulations. The soon-to-be-introduced Transportation Empowerment Act would do just that.
“There are also numerous opportunities to save money. More than half of the funding in the Department of Housing and Urban Development could be devolved to states or eliminated outright. The THUD appropriations bill provides conservatives an excellent opportunity to reduce government spending.”
Heritage Action opposes H.R. 2577 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.