The House Appropriations Committee has wrapped up its late June series of voting sessions on fiscal year 2023 bills, approving a bill that lifts funding levels for some key U.S. Dept. of Transportation infrastructure programs from 2022 levels but freezes others.

The panel’s 32-24 vote came on June 30, shortly before the start of the House’s July 4 break. The DOT measure, which also funds Dept. of Housing and Urban Development programs, was the last of 12 that constitute the annual appropriations bills.

But the committee's action is by no means the last word on the 2023 spending bills.

Still to come are a floor vote in the House and action in the Senate, where that chamber's Appropriations Committee has yet to consider any of its 12 spending measures for 2023.


Brian Turmail, Associated General Contractors of America vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives, says, "The biggest takeaway from the pending House appropriations bill on the transportation side was how [lawmakers] are proposing to freeze the large discretionary grant funding and instead significantly increase the amount that goes into earmarks, compared to what they did in the House last year."

Among key construction programs, the House panel's measure provide a 2% hike, to $58.8 billion, for the Federal Highway Administration’s obligation limit, a critically important account.

The bill also cuts a separate line-item for highway infrastructure programs by 28%, to $1.76 billion. Of the $1.76 billion, $1.28 billion is directed to earmarked projects.

That account draws on the Treasury’s general fund; the much larger obligation ceiling taps the Highway Trust Fund.

For public transportation, the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) formula grants program would edge up by $6 million, or less than 1%.

But FTA’s Capital Investment Grants account, which funds new transit starts, was a big winner in the House committee’s bill, winning a 34% increase, to $3 billion. That sum includes $2.1 billion for new starts.

Among aviation accounts, Airport Improvement Program grants funded through the Airport and Airway Trust Fund would be frozen, at $3.35 billion.

A separate airport grants account, which draws on the general fund, would more than double, to $554 million but all of the year-over-year increase of $227 million would go for congressionally earmarked projects.

The popular Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) competitive infrastructure grant program would be flat, at $775 million.

Since its creation more than a decade ago, the program has regularly attracted requests for far more funds than DOT has available.

Jay Hansen, National Asphalt Pavement Association executive vice president for advocacy, says that overall the bill's funding levels for highway construction programs are up slightly, but the amounts for airport construction are down slightly.

In an email to ENR, Hansen adds that those figures are consistent with those in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

He adds, "It's a good thing Congress enacted the FY 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act last March, because it lifted the overall funding baseline for these programs this year compared to last year." 

Hansen notes that Senate has not acted yet on 2023 appropriations, which "will provide another opportunity to boost funding for these programs next year," referring to fiscal 2023 numbers.

But he cautions, "Don't count your chickens until the eggs hatch."

Looking ahead, Turmail says AGC believes Congress will approve a stopgap continuing resolution (CR) that would carry federal programs past Nov. 8, Election Day.

Turmail says, in an email to ENR, "The real question is whether they set it to expire in November or early December." 

He adds that while he expects at least one CR, two such stopgaps are also possible.

Turmail says, "An absolute worst case would be if Congress needs to pass a third one that takes us into Christmas or even 2023—that would be less likely, but definitely unfortunate."

Just before adjourning, House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) directed her colleagues' attention to a screen depicting film legend Bette Davis in a scene from "All About Eve." 

DeLauro quoted Davis as saying, "Buckle your seatbelts—it's going to be a bumpy ride." And she told the committee members, "And that's what July is going to be all about." Davis's precise phrase was "a bumpy night," but there's little doubt that the weeks ahead for 2023 spending legislation will be anything but smooth.