President Obama's fiscal year 2015 budget request would give big boosts to federal highway and transit programs as well as to General Services Administration federal buildings accounts. But the proposal, sent to Congress on March 4, also would slice a variety of other construction-related areas, including Environmental Protection Agency water infrastructure, Dept. of Defense construction, Army Corps of Engineers civil works and Dept. of Energy defense environmental cleanup.
Perhaps the biggest construction winner is the Federal Transit Administration, whose total spending would jump 63%, to $17.6 billion. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says, "It's increasingly clear that the population surges are happening in metro areas." He adds that, in DOT's view, access to public transit will become more important and improve both quality of life and regional economies.
GSA's buildings program suffered cutbacks before winning a 2014 increase. Its 2015 budget would continue upward, including a 47% hike in its construction and acquisition account.
On the down side, the budget chops EPA's water infrastructure program by 15%, to $3 billion. Within the total, aid to clean-water state revolving funds faces a severe 30% cut.
As the Pentagon continues plans to reduce, particularly in the Army, DOD's construction would decline sharply under the Obama proposal, with only a few categories in line for increases.
The Federal Aviation Administration's airport construction grants would be nicked 13% by cutting grants to large hubs. Those airports, however, would benefit from Obama's proposed boost in passenger facility charges, to $8 from the current $4.50 per segment. The fees fund airport infrastructure. Todd Hauptli, American Association of Airport Executives president and CEO, praised the fee plan but not the reduction in grants.
Obama's blueprint is only the first offering in a long 2015 federal spending debate that will play out in the coming months. The bipartisan House-Senate budget pact, enacted on Dec. 26, set a $1.014-trillion cap on 2015 discretionary spending. That deal on the "top line" figure sparked hopes for a smooth path for the dozen appropriations bills that determine individual line-item amounts.
But House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) blasted the Obama budget. He said it "blatantly disregards the budget limits for fiscal year 2015," exceeding the cap by $60 billion. Rogers pledged to stick to the $1.014- trillion total.
Steve Hall, American Council of Engineering Companies vice president for government affairs, says, "There are some real problem areas that obviously we have concerns over ... but this is the start of a long process."