Saturday, May 28, 2016

AASHTO Journal: House Panel OKs 2017 Funding Bill for USDOT; Provisions Draw Veto Threat



It also includes $19.2 billion in USDOT funding subject to annual appropriations, which the committee said is $540 million above the level enacted for fiscal 2016.
dollarpump.jpgHowever, it also provides trucking workweek provisions that safety advocates say could put more tired truckers on the nation's highways, by preventing the USDOT from implementing a regulatory change to off-duty time requirements until the department can prove it would benefit drivers' health.
The Obama administration issued a veto threat May 16 that cited its concerns for highway safety, along with some other issues.
The Senate passed its version of the 2017 spending bill May 19. It includes a provision that would force state departments of transportation to cut $2.211 billion of past, unused contract authority that the DOTs were prevented from using due to annual obligation limits imposed by Congress.
The DOTs would have to apply that proposed rescission across a narrow group of federal program categories, which combined with a $7.6 billion rescission in the recently passed FAST Act, could cause them to lose actual funds by the year 2020. A coalition of organizations representing state governments has called on Congress to remove that rescission.
The House bill would not rescind any highway funds for 2017, and the two chambers would need to negotiate differences to agree on any final funding measure.
Among its provisions, the House bill would cut the USDOT's wide-ranging TIGER infrastructure grants program by 10 percent to $450 million next year from $500 million now. The committee in its report language also prodded the USDOT to "fully obligate amounts available for credit assistance" under its TIFIA loan program that has often been  criticized for being slow to approve loans.
In its major spending categories, the bill would provide $44 billion for the federal-aid highway programs in the Highway Trust Fund, as authorized by the FAST Act. That is $905 million above the 2016 level, the committee noted.
Programs under the Federal Aviation Administration would receive $16.3 billion, which is $69 million more than this year and $450 million more than President Obama requested in his budget proposal.
The bill would provide $12.5 billion in total transit funding, up by $743 million from 2016. That includes $9.7 billion in formula grants to transit agencies in line with the authorized level.
It would fund the Federal Railroad Administration at $1.7 billion, up $42 million from this year, with $420 million directed into Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and $1 billion to support its national network. It provides no funds for high-speed rail.
And the committee said its bill "continues reforms to ensure the best use of tax dollars, such as requiring overtime limits for Amtrak employees to reduce unnecessary costs, and prohibiting funds from being used to subsidize losses associated with Amtrak's food and beverage service."
Politico reported that committee Democrats tried to strip out the Amtrak food service language along with some other so-called "policy riders" including the trucker hours' provision, but said the GOP majority defeated that effort on a party-line vote.
The bill includes $483 million for the Maritime Administration, up $84 million from 2016. Various USDOT safety programs – for highway traffic, commercial vehicles and pipelines or hazardous materials – would total $918 million for a $49 million increase.


(Source: http://www.aashtojournal.org/Pages/052716thud.aspx)

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