Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Just How Bad is the White House Transportation Budget?
Bad. Just how bad is unknown, since we don’t have the details. The budget summary document (available here) proposes a $2.4 Billion, or 13%, cut from baseline funding, but only 5 specific provisions are identified:
1. Privatize air traffic control,
2. Eliminate funding for long-distance Amtrak trains,
3. Eliminate FTA’s New Starts program for transit (for projects not yet at the stage of “full funding agreement”),
4. Eliminate the Essential Air Service program, and
5. Eliminate funding for the TIGER discretionary funding program.
These changes certainly don’t add up to $2.4 Billion, and I have no idea how OMB plans to get to that number. It won’t be pretty.
The 5 provisions themselves reflect the thinking of the 2016 Republican platform, although in less radical (or perhaps only introductory) form (see my comments on the platform here).
Ironically, two of the targets for cuts – Essential Air Service and Amtrak long-distance trains – are subsidies for transportation in mainly Red State “flyover” territory.
The largest and most consequential hit is transit New Starts. This program is already starved for funds compared to demonstrated need – let alone what we should be doing to build an advanced, greatly expanded public transportation component for a resilient, sustainable 21st century transportation system.
What about the anticipated infrastructure initiative that is supposed to draw bipartisan support? Certainly there is no money for anything like that here, adding to the suspicion that that initiative will focus on a giveaway of highways and bridges to concessionaires who will fund improvements through very high tolls.