Buttigieg Defends FY24 Budget on Capitol Hill

Transportation Secretary Emphasizes Safety and Connectivity
Pete Buttigieg
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, (Stefani Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images/Bloomberg)

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The safety and connectivity of the country’s transportation system would improve with adoption of President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2024 budget request, Secretary Pete Buttigieg told senators March 23.

The secretary pointed to funding proposals for agencies in the Department of Transportation set up to protect passengers on the nation’s highways. Boosting funds for programs at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, as well as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for instance, would lead to myriad benefits for communities as well as the freight sector.

At a hearing of an appropriations subcommittee, Buttigieg promoted the budget’s $3.1 billion for the Highway Safety Improvement Program, which he explained would result in “new funding for safer walking and biking infrastructure, and advanced safety research initiatives.”

“We awarded grants for the first-ever Safe Streets and Roads For All program, and partners are stepping up in response to our National Roadway Safety Strategy. But we still see far too many fatal crashes on our roads,” the secretary told the Senate subcommittee. NHTSA data estimated that nearly 43,000 traffic fatalities took place in 2021, a 10.5% increase from the previous year.

Specific to connectivity improvements along supply chains, the budget request proposes $230 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program. “We have made critical investments in ports from Columbus, Mississippi, to Los Angeles so that goods move more quickly — and we have taken measures that helped cut the number of ships waiting at America’s largest ports from over 100 down to the single digits, and helped bring Pacific shipping prices down 80%,” the secretary affirmed.

In touting the ongoing implementation of safety and supply chain-centric programs authorized by the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the secretary pressed senators to pursue similar bipartisanship for the fiscal 2024 budget request. As he put it, “Congress in recent years has shown itself capable of delivering a bipartisan infrastructure law that evaded our predecessors for decades. Now we need that same bipartisan strength to sustain those ongoing infrastructure investments — and to make progress on safety regulations that protect Americans driving, flying, walking, riding — and counting — on that infrastructure.”

Cindy Hyde Smith


Senate Democrats, governing in the majority, are largely supportive of the latest funding request from the White House. Key Republicans, however, have raised concerns about certain transportation programs. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), ranking member of the transportation funding panel, took aim at rural corridors. She told Buttigieg during the hearing, “Rural communities face very unique challenges.”

“What works in larger, urban areas often does not work in smaller rural areas like those across Mississippi,” said the senator. “As such, we must formulate a funding bill that strikes a healthy balance that we can meet the needs of all Americans.”

The White House’s $6.9 trillion budget proposal would dedicate nearly $1 billion for FMCSA, which is tasked with regulating commercial vehicles, such as heavy-duty trucks and buses. That proposal’s breakdown includes $435 million for its safety operations division and $516.3 million for its motor carrier safety grants unit.

“This request will allow FMCSA to fulfill the agency’s congressionally mandated mission of saving lives by reducing the number and severity of crashes involving large trucks and buses. The agency performs this mission through education, prevention, technology, research, regulation, enforcement, compliance and financial assistance,” according to background the department provided.

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Overall, USDOT’s budget request would provide the Federal Highway Administration with $60.8 billion, the Federal Transit Administration with $17 billion, the Federal Railroad Administration with $4.8 billion, NHTSA with $1.3 billion and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration with $387.3 million.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, House Republicans governing in the majority intend to schedule a review of the budget request.