The Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations Process Begins

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The spring weather in our nation’s capital has ushered in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 appropriations season, and it’s warming up quickly here on Capitol Hill (both the weather and the appropriations!). In anticipation of the FY19 appropriations process, ASCE sent funding request letters to several House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees, including the:

  • House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment;
  • House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development;
  • House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security;
  • House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development; and
  • House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Science, and Justice.

Our funding requests are rooted in the belief that our nation’s infrastructure, which received a grade of “D+” in our 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, can be improved and restored; however, to actually close the growing funding gap, a sustained, strategic investment is required, including a long-term investment from the federal government that leverages state, local, and private investment.

Shortly after ASCE sent the Appropriations Subcommittees our FY19 funding priorities and requests, the House Appropriations Committee began releasing its FY19 appropriations bills. As of publication date, the following FY19 House appropriations bills have been released: Energy & Water Development; Interior & Environment; Commerce, Justice & Science; Transportation, Housing & Urban Development; Military Construction & Veterans Affairs; Agriculture, Rural Development and Food & Drug Administration; and Legislative Branch. Although the Senate has not yet released any of its FY19 appropriations bill, Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby announced the committee’s schedule for all 12 appropriations bill, with the ultimate goal of having all of the bills marked-up by June 29.

It’s been over 20 years since Congress has passed all of its appropriations bills (the last time was in 1997), but both chambers of Congress currently appear eager to get all 12 appropriations bills through committee (and presumably to their respective floors) by the August recess. The government must pass a spending bill by October 1 of each year, though they have relied on short-term extensions, or continuing resolutions, since 2011. The funding outlook for FY19 contains levels that are largely equal to or higher than the FY18 omnibus.

Here is the full breakdown of the appropriations related to infrastructure thus far:

The House Appropriations Committee advanced its $44.7 billion for the Energy & Water Development FY19 appropriations bill, which is $1.5 billion above the FY18 enacted level and $8.17 billion above President Trump’s FY19 budget request. The bill funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at $7.28 billion, which is $451 million above the FY18 enacted level. Under this bill, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) energy programs receive $13.4 billion, which is $504 million above the FY18 enacted level, and DOE’s science research programs receive $$6.6 billion, or $340 million above the FY18 enacted level. The committee voted down a controversial provision, known as a “rider,” that would have repealed the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment approved its $32.5 billion FY19 appropriations bill, which is the same funding level as FY18 and $7 billion more than the President’s FY19 budget request, and it now advances to the full committee for a vote. The bill provides $13.1 billion for the U.S. Department of the Interior – the same as the FY18 enacted level – and $7.95 billion for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is $100 million below the FY18 enacted level but nearly $2 billion above the President’s FY19 budget request. The bill includes $2.6 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, which is $200 million below the FY18 enacted level but still $1 billion above the President’s FY19 budget request, as well as $75 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, which is $12 million above the FY18 enacted level. The bill contains controversial riders, including withdrawal of the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule and changes to federal endangered species protection.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies approved its $71.8 billion FY19 appropriations bill, which is $1.5 billion above the FY18 enacted level and $23.8 billion more than the President’s FY19 budget request. For the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the subcommittee approved $27.8 billion in discretionary funding, a $545 million increase from the FY18 enacted level and $11.3 billion above the President’s FY19 budget request. FAST Act related programs in the bill have a total discretionary funding level of $62.4 billion, which is $822 million more than FAST Act authorized levels and $3.7 billion above the President’s FY19 budget request. The bill provides $17.7 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is $300 million below the FY18 enacted level and $1.6 billion above the President’s FY19 budget request. The $1 billion supplemental for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) included in the FY18 appropriations bill is reduced to $500 million in the FY19 appropriations bill. The bill provides $750 million for TIGER/BUILD Grants, which was not included in the President’s FY19 budget request and is $750 million below the FY18 enacted level. Funding for the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program is at $2.6 billion, which is the same amount as the FY18 enacted level and $1.6 billion above the President’s FY19 budget request. The subcommittee’s bill now advances to the full committee for a vote.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Science, and Justice approved its $62.5 billion FY19 appropriations bill, which is $2.9 billion above the FY18 enacted level. The National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) receives $21.5 billion, or $810 million above the FY18 enacted level. The bill provides $8.2 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is $408 above the FY18 enacted level.

ASCE urges Congress to fund these agencies and programs that have proven to be successful, especially those included in our FY19 appropriations request letters. Providing more funding to existing programs, rather than creating new programs, will reduce overhead costs and startup time while still allowing for significant and noticeable improvements across all sectors of U.S. infrastructure.

Our infrastructure is the backbone of our nation’s economy, and although the FY18 omnibus and 2018 budget deal included increases in infrastructure investment, we ask Congress to engage in bold leadership so that we can restore America’s world-class infrastructure.

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