President Biden’s detailed fiscal 2022 budget proposal has good news for most key federal construction and infrastructure programs, seeking increases from this year's levels in many transportation, environmental and federal buildings accounts.
But the budget request, sent to Congress on May 28, has one prominent exception to that picture—the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers civil works program, which would face a 13% cut.
As always, the numbers in the president’s proposal are far from final. Congressional appropriators will put their stamps on the budget and funding levels won’t be settled until the fall, at the earliest.
Biden had released a framework for his 2022 budget plan in April, but that document only had overall funding figures for each department and agency. The new submission lists all individual line-items, filling a 1,422-page budget Appendix.
Complicating an analysis of the budget picture this year are two huge legislative proposals from the president—the $2.3-trillion American Jobs Plan and the $1.8-trillion American Families Plan—which have provisions affecting many federal departments and agencies.
The new Biden budget documents discuss and list elements of those two plans, but also have recommendations for the traditional base programs and accounts.
Construction and engineering groups have been tracking the American Jobs Plan especially closely because it includes additional funding for many key infrastructure programs.
The fate of both of Biden's ambitious legislative plans is uncertain and the Jobs Plan is the subject of negotiations between the White House and a group of Republican senators. As Congress began its Memorial Day break, the GOP contingent on May 27 put a new, sweetened $962-billion offer on the table. Negotiations were expected to continue.
Excluding possible Jobs Plan and Families Plan additions, the new budget’s proposed funding levels for core infrastructure and construction programs mostly trend upward.
At the US Dept. of Transportation, the key federal-aid highway obligation limit would be frozen at the 2021 level of $46.4 billion, reflecting the last year of the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST, Act.
[View DOT budget highlights document here.]
Congress is working on a multiyear FAST Act successor, which could contain a sizable increase for highways. One indicator: the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on May 26 approved a $303.5-billion highway measure. It would be part of a new surface transportation bill, supplemented by transit, safety and revenue titles.
The Senate panel’s bill proposes a $57.5-billion highway obligation ceiling for fiscal 2022, a significant gain over the 2021 level.
Among other DOT programs, the budget requests $13.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, up 4% from the 2021 pre-pandemic enacted level. The numbers exclude $39 billion that the agency received from COVID relief and recovery measures.
Within the total, the Capital Investment Grants account, which funds new rail and bus project starts, would be hiked 25% to $2.5 billion in 2022.
Biden's budget would continue two popular DOT discretionary grant programs. The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE, program would receive $1 billion for 2022, the same as 2021's mark. The program had previously been named TIGER, and then BUILD.
The other, a discretionary aid program for “nationally significant“ freight and highway projects, called INFRA grants, also would receive $1 billion in the new request, equaling the 2021 level.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s airport improvement program, supported by the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, would be flat, at the 2021 level of $3.4 billion.
EPA, DOE, DOD programs
At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water State Revolving Funds (SRF) account, which finances wastewater treatment projects, would see a 14% increase, to $1.9 billion. EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Funds would be hiked by 21%, to $1.4 billion.
Another important environmental program, the U.S. Dept. of Energy defense environmental cleanup account, would rise 6% to $6.8 billion. That program is responsible for waste remediation at former nuclear weapons facilities around the country.
For Dept. of Defense construction, including barracks, military family housing and infrastructure on military posts, the budget seeks a 17% increase, to $9.8 billion.
The Army Corps 2022 civil works budget would be sliced 13% to $6.8 billion. Within that total, the construction account would be trimmed 33% to $1.8 billion, and its operation and maintenance account would be pared 35% to $2.5 billion.
GSA, VA Buildings
Among federal buildings program, the U.S. General Services Administration construction and acquisition account would jump by 81% to $417 million. GSA’s repairs and alterations account would more than double to $1.7 billion.
The US Dept. of Veterans Affairs’ major projects account would see a 22% increase to $1.6 billion. That program funds projects of more than $20 million. VA’s minor projects program would climb 42%, to $553 million.