Highway programs could be shortchanged by the latest budget development on Capitol Hill.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a six-month spending bill to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, making a substantial government shutdown at the end of the month less likely.
The continuing resolution would provide $982 billion in funding at the previous enacted levels because Congress failed to pass a budget and updated appropriations bills during the last session to fund federal departments and agencies this year. It also bakes in the $85 billion in sweeping budget cuts from the March 1 sequester on military and domestic discretionary spending. The initial stopgap funding measure for the year expires on March 27.
But the continuing resolution includes $586 million less for highway infrastructure and safety programs and $118 million less for transit programs than was authorized last summer in MAP-21. The legislation, considered a short-term fix under difficult budget conditions, gave appropriators approval to spend $105 billion over two years on surface transportation programs.
"We are disappointed with the surface transportation investment levels contained in the proposed House continuing resolution, which fails to meet funding levels from MAP-21 passed by the Congress just nine months ago," Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said in a statement. "At a time when our economy continues to struggle to regain its footing, any reduction in transportation infrastructure investment only exacerbates that problem. We are also concerned that the proposed bill freezes funding for certain safety programs at a time when highway fatalities may again be on the rise.”
The CR is now before the Senate, which is expected to make changes to the House bill. - Eric Kulisch