Trump Budget: Highway Safety Grants Fully Funded

From: Russ Martin
Sent: May 24, 2017
Subject: Trump Budget: Highway Safety Grants Fully Funded

GHSA Members,
With the FY 2017 budget finalized, D.C. now turns to FY 2018 appropriations. Earlier this week, the Trump Administration released its most detailed budget proposal yet (see also an even more detailed line item breakdown) that aims to reduce taxes and federal spending and invest more in defense.
This budget request, above all else, is a political statement indicating the Administration’s priorities. The contents will not be adopted wholesale by Congress, but rather parts may be adopted, amended, or disregarded in any appropriations legislation ultimately advanced on the Hill. According to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, “I will say that, in all the time that I’ve been here, I’ve never seen a single president’s budget survive the appropriations process.”
As discussed below, the White House and Congress disagree on many things, but one thing they do seem to see eye to eye on is the dedication of federal resources to combat rising traffic fatalities. The budget calls for full funding for NHTSA’s Highway Safety Grant Programs at $597.6 million. Just as Congress advanced the FY 2017 appropriations with grant programs fully funded, contacts on the Hill expect the same for next year and beyond.
Note that the budget proposal acknowledges the expected insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) by 2021 - an issue that will have to be resolved by the next transportation re-authorization.
The remainder of the budget request signals a number of proposed shifts in federal transportation priorities, many of which Congress may not go along with. Here are some highlights:
  •          Discretionary Cuts: The proposal makes cuts to a number of non-defense discretionary programs popular on the Hill and with cities and states. In transportation, the budget would eliminate TIGER infrastructure grants and significantly cut funding for mass transit, Amtrak, and Essential Air Service programs. The plan also provides for the transfer of oversight of air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration to a new, private non-profit – a contentious issue Congress is expected to tackle later this year.
  •          Supplemental Infrastructure Set-Aside: The budget re-directs $200 billion towards transportation projects over 10 years to contribute to a larger, forthcoming $1 trillion supplemental infrastructure plan. Included with the budget request is a factsheet that describes how the budget would contribute to this wider infrastructure initiative and that outlines 4 “key principles” to guide the Administration’s policy.
  •          Interstate Tolling: The budget proposes lifting the current law banning states from tolling existing interstate highways. Though such a policy change could both generate revenue and spur private investment, the trucking industry opposes tolling expansion and Congress would surely draw pushback from motorists.
  •          A Balanced Budget in 10 Years, but with an Asterisk: The revenue ‘neutrality’ of the overall proposal is contingent on continuous economic growth - an annual GDP growth rate of 3% after inflation, while recent average annual growth has been more like 2%. The delicate balance of the plan also relies on the passage of both health care reform legislation and a separate deficit-neutral tax cut plan, neither of which are close to certain.
We will continue to monitor and provide updates as Congress considers these policy concepts and works to develop next year’s appropriations throughout this summer.
Russ Martin
Director of Government Relations
Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)
444 N. Capitol Street, NW Suite 722
Washington, DC  20001-1534
202-789-0942, ext. 180