Federal Infrastructure & Science Programs Receive House Appropriations

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The House Appropriations Committee had a busy week, passing the remaining five (out of 12) appropriations bills this week, part of the process Congress goes through to create the federal budget. Here are the highlights of the bills affecting infrastructure and engineering.

Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

  • National Science Foundation is funded at $7.3 billion, which is $133 million below FY17. However, the Appropriators ignored President Trump’s proposal to cut $$672 million from the agency.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is funded at $19.9 billion, $219 million above the 2017 enacted level.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is funded at $865 million – $87 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $140 million above the President’s request.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is funded at $4.97 billion, which is $710 million below the FY17 enacted level.

The full details of the bill are available from the Subcommittee.

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies

ASCE tracks and supports programs within the Department of Education, which support STEM Education.

The bill funds the Department of Education at $66 billion, which is $2.4 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Among specific programs:

  • Student Support and Academic Achievement State Grants – The bill includes $500 million, $100 million above the fiscal year 2017 level, for grants that provide flexible funds to states and school districts to expand access, improve school conditions, and increase the use of technology. This program includes provisions to support STEM programs.
  • The bill would eliminate the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants Program, currently funded at more than $2 billion. The program is the largest federal funding stream that directly supports teachers, including training for STEM teachers. ASCE joined with the STEM Education Coalition in opposing the cut. Efforts by Rep David Price (D-NC) to restore funding were defeated.
  • The House bill would also eliminate the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).  ARPA-E, part of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. The program has been a target of conservative lawmakers since its creation. However, the program enjoys support in the Senate.

The full details of the bill are available from the Subcommittee.

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

  • S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is funded at $7.5 billion, a nearly $550 million decrease from FY17 enacted levels but $2 billion more than the President’s FY18 budget request.
  • Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program is funded at $1.143 billion, a $247 million decrease from FY17 enacted levels and $250 million less than the President’s FY18 budget request. Since 1987, the CWSRF has been providing states and localities with a critical source of funding for water infrastructure projects through low-interest loans. ASCE wrote a letter to House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) expressing our concerns with cuts to the CWSRF program and urging them to fund it at the President’s requested level of $1.393 billion.

The full details of the bill are available from the Subcommittee.

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies

Overall the T-HUD bill is $7.8 billion smaller than FY17’s version, with almost all of the reduction coming from DOT.

  • The bill eliminates the $500 million a year TIGER grant program, which was authorized as a part of the 2009 stimulus bill to support innovative projects that are difficult to fund through traditional federal programs.
  • Restricts funding for transit capital grants (i.e. New Starts, Small Starts) to projects with existing full funding grant agreements only.
  • ASCE opposed the elimination of TIGER and the reduction of transit capital grants.
  • The bill provides $900 million for the New York-New Jersey Gateway rail project.

The full details of the bill are available from the Subcommittee.

The Senate is also working through its appropriations. Stay tuned for an update on how infrastructure fares in those deliberations.

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