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April 12, 2021 4:15 PM, EDT

Biden Proposes Transportation Budget Increase

BidenBiden speaks at a recent virtual event. (Amr Alfiky/The New York Times/Bloomberg News)

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President Joe Biden has previewed a $1.5 trillion fiscal 2022 budget plan that would increase discretionary spending for transportation systems and severe weather resilience programs.

Under the president’s budget blueprint, unveiled April 9, the U.S. Department of Transportation would receive a 14% increase in discretionary funding, as well as an updated strategy for addressing concerns linked to climate change.

The budget request proposes to “build back better America’s highway, transit and rail systems nationwide; make historic investment in safety, equity, and climate change mitigation; and foster neighborhood-oriented investments that transform America’s infrastructure, reconnect communities, and provide opportunities to all Americans,” according to the White House document sent to Congress. Specifically, the blueprint calls for providing $25.6 billion for the department, which would be about $300 million above the fiscal 2021 enacted level.

Additionally, the budget proposes $625 million for a passenger rail competitive grant program, as well as $375 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement, or CRISI, grants. It would provide $2.5 billion for a transit grants program. And it includes $250 million in grants for transit agencies to purchase low- and zero-emission buses.

The request would provide the U.S. General Services Administration $300 million to buy electric vehicles and set up charging stations.

Additionally, the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, grants program would receive $1 billion. This infrastructure grants program has been used by states and localities to advance big-ticket projects.

“As Congress prepares to begin the annual appropriations process, the request lays out the president’s discretionary funding recommendations across a wide range of policy areas, and outlines a strategy for reinvesting in the foundations of our country’s resilience and strength,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, noting that a complete version of the budget request would be unveiled in the coming weeks. “The request, which represents only one element of the administration’s broader agenda, includes major investments, proposed investments, I should say, in K-12 education, cutting-edge medical research, housing, civil rights, and a range of other priorities that are vital to our future.”

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Reacting to the budget request, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said April 9: “President Biden’s strong budget request honors this truth: Our federal budget should be a statement of our national values and must reflect America’s priorities. The Biden administration budget ensures that we not only recover from this pandemic and economic crisis but that we seize this historic opportunity to build back better.”

“The Biden budget paves the path for opportunity, prosperity and justice for the people. It is transformational, making important and overdue investments in the foundations of America’s strength, including by creating good-paying jobs and powering economic growth that will ensure our global competitiveness,” Pelosi added.

The budget request comes as the White House is pushing for passage of a $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan. The American Jobs Plan proposes investing more than $600 billion for transportation programs. To fund a significant portion of the infrastructure plan, the White House is suggesting raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.

“Americans are spending too much of their money on transportation in the wrong ways or don’t have access to it at all. And the American people are making clear to all of us, regardless of party, that they want us to get it done and they are not asking us to tinker around the edges,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said April 9. “We’ve risen to this challenge before as a country. In fact, building bold infrastructure has always been central to America’s story.”

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