Trump’s Budget Slashes Funding for Transportation Infrastructure
The fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint released by the White House yesterday is peculiar for a president who has promised massive infrastructure investments. When it comes to existing programs that invest in transportation improvements, the budget outline proposes severe cuts.
Industry and labor groups are both expressing concern over the potential of significant declines for most federally funded, port-related programs in President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget.
Proposed for the budget chopping block is the US Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants program, which last year awarded US ports $61.8 million in multimodal infrastructure grants such as dock, rail, and road improvements. The Department of Homeland Security’s Port Security Grants Program (PSGP), which Congress last funded at $100 million and which provided 35 port security-related grants in fiscal 2017, is also expected to experience a significant cut.
“We’re apprehensive about the fiscal 2018 budget,” said Kurt Nagle, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) . “Adequate federal investments into US port-related infrastructure, both on the landside and waterside, are crucial for the efficient movement of goods so the nation can remain globally competitive. Activities at US seaports account for more than a quarter of the nation’s economy, support over 23 million American jobs and generate more than $320 billion a year in federal, state and local tax revenue. It’s vital the federal government uphold its end of the partnership with ports so the country can have a 21st century goods movement system in place.”
“The austerity measures offered for transportation in the President’s budget blueprint go in the wrong direction and must be rejected,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. “We cannot cut our way to a better and more modern transportation system.
“The president has rightfully called for a historic $1 trillion investment in our transportation system and infrastructure,” Wytkind added. “But the budget released today does not advance that vision and instead would deal a severe blow to many key investment programs that are critical to our passenger and freight transportation network.”
President Trump has also proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget by 31 percent. EPA’s budget funds the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) grants. While no details were released on the fate of this program, which is authorized at $100 million, DERA grants have been especially helpful in decreasing port-related diesel emissions in near-port communities. These federal grants have helped ports to make investments in clean diesel equipment and reduction strategies at the ports themselves, and they’ve used them to help businesses buy newer, cleaner-burning trucks, locomotives and vessels.
While the president’s proposed budget calls for increasing the overall US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) budget by $400 million over the previous administration’s request of $4.6 billion, the request still represents a 16 percent decrease in the Corps budget when compared to the Continuing Resolution fiscal 2017 level. Details for the Corps’ Coastal Navigation portion of the budget aren’t yet known, but are expected to be available in May. The Coastal Navigation program funds improvements and maintenance in America’s harbors and deep-draft shipping channels.
AAPA has recommended that the fiscal 2018 budget provide $2.9 billion for the Corps’ Navigation program, expand TIGER grants to $1.25 billion annually, increase funding to $400 million for DHS’s Port Security Grant Program, and continue with DERA at the $100 million level.