House Passes DOT Spending Bill, With $4 Billion for High-Speed Rail
After defeating GOP budget-cutting proposals, the House has approved a fiscal 2010 transportation and housing spending measure that includes $75.8 billion for the Dept. of Transportation, a 13% gain over 2009. The measure, approved on July 23, by a 256-168 vote, would provide modest increases for highway, transit and airport grant programs, plus $4 billion for high-speed rail. Only 16 Republicans voted for the bill, and only 10 Democrats voted against it.
For the largest DOT construction program, federal-aid highways, the bill contains a $41.8-billion obligation ceiling, up 1% from 2009. But appropriators noted the unresolved problems facing the Highway Trust Fund, and directed that $36.1 billion of their recommended obligation limit should come from the general fund, not the trust fund. But Congress is expected to add more revenue to the trust fund in coming weeks, which would make a $36-billion general-fund drawdown for highways unnecessary.
Among other DOT construction programs, the bill would provide only a $1-million boost in 2010 for Airport Improvement Program grants, setting the level at slightly more than $3.5 billion.
Appropriators also allocated $10.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, up 3% from 2009.
High-speed rail is a big winner under the House bill, receiving $4 billion. That would supplement the $8 billion for fast trains in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law in February.
The overall bill funds DOT and Dept. of Housing and Urban Development programs, totals $123.1 billion in budget resources, up 13% from 2009. HUD's portion is $47 billion.
Republicans offered several amendments aimed at trimming the bill's overall $123.1-billion price tag, but all were rejected. One unsuccessful proposal would have cut the bill by $20 billion, another called for a $13.5-billion reduction, and another would have imposed a 5% across-the-board cut for all of the bill's spending accounts. Also defeated was a proposal from Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), who sought to slice the high-speed rail spending to $1 billion.
The next step is action in the Senate, where the transportation-HUD appropriations subcommittee is scheduled to take up its version of the 2010 bill on July 29.