House transportation, housing bill sets up funding fights

While Democrats are pushing for increases in highway spending, the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released a 2015 transportation and housing measure that reduces program funding by nearly $2 billion.

The transportation, housing and urban development (THUD) bill appears on paper to increase discretionary spending by $1.2 billion to $52 billion, but factoring in lower than anticipated revenue from the Federal Housing Administration means the bill actually cuts $1.8 billion.
“This is a sound, commonsense bill that meets our highest transportation and housing priorities in a fiscally responsible way,” retiring subcommittee Chairman Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said.
Cuts to Amtrak, Section 8 housing, lead hazard grants, HOME partnerships, and capital investment grants for transit projects are likely to irk Democrats, even if they are more pleased with Community Development Block Grant levels and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding levels.
The $52 billion level is $7.8 billion below what President Obama wanted to spend.
{mosads}The THUD bill is set to be marked up in subcommittee on Wednesday.
The annual spending bill leaves major questions about highway funding and the rapidly depleting state of the Highway Trust Fund to the authorizing committees, who are working on a five-year surface transportation measure.
The THUD bill simply assumes $40.25 billion from the Highway Trust Fund will be spent on the Federal Highway program, equal to this year’s level.
The bill cuts TIGER grants, a favorite of many lawmakers, by $500 million to a total of $100 million. It does not allow funds for bike and pedestrian paths.
The FAA is funded at $7.3 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and the Federal Railroad Administration is funded at $1.4 billion, a reduction of $193 million. There is no funding for high speed rail, an Obama priority. 
To cut costs, Amtrak would be required to put overtime limits on employees and not use federal funding for routes where Amtrak offers a discount of 50 percent or more peak fares. 
On housing, the bill has $40.3 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a decrease of $769 million below this year and $2 billion below Obama’s request.
Section 8 and pubic housing are increased by $6.2 million, but that is $1.2 billion less than Obama wanted. 
The full House already passed relatively non-controversial military construction and Veterans Affairs and legislative branch bills last week. A Commerce, Justice and Science measure has moved through subcommittee as well.
Tags Highway Trust Fund Highway Trust Fund shorfall HUD Tom Latham
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