President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget proposal again makes a strong pitch for boosting federal infrastructure funding, but only some construction programs would share in the increases.
Under the president's budget request, sent to Congress on April 10, highway and transit accounts would receive modest hikes compared with 2013 levels, and General Services Administration funding for federal buildings would soar. However, airport grants and wastewater-treatment facility aid would be cut.
The proposal's fate will depend on congressional budget and appropriations committees. Reactions split along party lines. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said the request "moves us in the right direction." But House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) said the Obama plan "is overstuffed with spending and tax increases that will continue to hinder economic growth."
Overall, the $3.8-trillion budget plan would slice the deficit by $1.8 trillion over 10 years, Obama said. Achieving that goal would include $580 billion in tax increases and $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other health-care programs.
It also would include $202 billion in additional discretionary spending reductions, the budget document says. Obama termed those reductions "smarter cuts" that would replace the budget sequester's "reckless, across-the-board spending cuts." The 2014 installment would have about $9 billion in reductions, some of which would fall on construction accounts. Amid the cuts, certain priority programs, including some in infrastructure, would receive increases.
In transportation, for example, the budget includes the small increases for highways and transit provided for 2014 in last year's Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). Thus, the budget would set the 2014 highway obligation ceiling at $40.3 billion, up from $39.7 billion in FY13. Tracking MAP-21 levels, the Federal Transit Administration would get $10.6 billion in 2014, up from $10.5 billion this year.
The budget would trim 2014 Airport Improvement Program construction grants to $2.9 billion, from $3.35 billion in 2013. Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari told reporters the AIP cut would be offset by a proposal to allow large hub airports to raise passenger facility charges to $8, from $4.50 now.
Banking on Infrastructure
Obama again is proposing an additional $50 billion in "up-front" transportation infrastructure spending. That total would include $40 billion for "Fix It First" projects, aimed at deferred maintenance, as well as funds to launch a national infrastructure bank.