President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request proposes increasing funding for federal trucking regulators. Overall, the U.S. Department of Transportation would see a decrease.
Facilitating the implementation and enforcement of safety programs and increasing resources for state partners are two of the aims of Trump’s request for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Under the proposal, FMCSA would receive $288 million for safety operations and programs, and $387.8 million for safety grants. The request is slightly higher than the fiscal 2019 enacted level of $284 million for safety operations and programs, and $382.8 million for safety grants.
Overall, the U.S. Department of Transportation discretionary funding request is $21.4 billion, a reduction from the fiscal 2019 enacted level of $26.5 billion. The Office of Management and Budget noted the request amounted to a 22% decrease from the 2019 discretionary estimate. For mandatory funding, the budget proposes $62.2 billion, from the $60.8 billion fiscal 2019 enacted level.
CAPITOL AGENDA: Infrastructure grants prioritized
White House officials delivered the request to Congress on March 11. Speaking to reporters, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao explained, “For the vast majority of the department’s programs, the fiscal year 2020 proposal tracks closely with the enacted funding level. It also includes resources for the department’s innovation agenda and NextGen.” The objective of the NextGen program is to modernize air travel.
On March 14, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee, “The policies and priorities in the president’s fiscal-year 2020 budget will continue to foster stronger economic growth, reduce spending and create a more sustainable fiscal outlook for our country by reducing the deficit as a share of [gross domestic product].”
The request for FMCSA’s safety programs consists of $15.2 million to help identify safety breakdowns and assist carriers and drivers, $11.3 million to develop and implement data-driven policies and regulations, and $9.1 million for research focusing on risk factors and technology.
Under the agency’s grants account, $308.7 million would be provided for state safety programs, such as roadside inspections, investigations and traffic enforcement; $44.9 million for the improvement of motor carrier compliance and safety via state and local law enforcement; and $33.2 million to ensure that only safe and qualified drivers obtain and retain a commercial driver license.
“Through these programs over 3 million inspections are conducted, technology innovations are tested and implemented, and states improve their regulatory compliance each year,” according to a dossier U.S. DOT prepared. “These activities saved hundreds of lives, and prevented thousands of injuries and [commercial motor vehicle] crashes each year.”
DOT also emphasized FMCSA collaborates with stakeholders to adopt new driver-assistance technology.
The request proposes dedicating $1 billion for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD grants, formerly known as TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery). Grants for freight projects called INFRA (Infrastructure for Rebuilding America) would receive $2 billion. According to DOT’s budget document, the INFRA program has been “successful in providing the seed money necessary to spur nonfederal investment in large projects that relieve congestion on the nation’s strategic multimodal freight network.”
Also in the request, the Federal Highway Administration would receive $47.4 billion, a decrease from the $49.2 billion fiscal 2019 enacted level. The Federal Railroad Administration would receive $1.9 billion, a decrease from the $2.8 billion fiscal 2019 enacted level. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would receive $929.3 million, a decrease from the $966.3 million fiscal 2019 enacted level. And the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration would receive $254.5 million, a decrease from the $273.3 million fiscal 2019 enacted level. For the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the president requests $6.1 billion, a 31% decrease from the 2019 estimate, according to OMB.
After calling the budget request a “statement of priorities,” Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen on March 11 stressed no funding was proposed for a Hudson River rail tunnel project referred to as Gateway. As he put it, “Those transit projects are local responsibilities and elected officials from New York and New Jersey are the ones accountable for them.”
A two-page document titled “Deliver 21st Century Infrastructure” that accompanied the formal request indicated Trump has called on Congress to advance a bill capable of producing $1 trillion in infrastructure investments. Unlike last year, the White House did not outline a legislative approach for realizing such a long-term package.
MORE ON BUDGET: Discretionary spending slashed
Congressional Democrats on the transportation panels criticized the request.
“It’s clear that our country needs significant federal investment to even begin to bring our nation’s infrastructure to a state of good repair, so it’s highly disappointing that once again, despite so much of his rhetoric over the past few years, the president put forth a budget that falls incredibly short,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the top transportation authorizer in the House.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member on the committee responsible for surface transportation, added, “Trump has proposed a budget that would expand the deficit to over $1 trillion every year until 2022. This is either an unserious budget proposal, or it is the height of irresponsibility.”