House cuts transportation funding; infrastructure must wait

House cuts transportation funding; infrastructure must wait

The House Appropriations Committee in Congress approved a 3.7 percent decrease in funding for the Department of Transportation, approving a total of $17.8 billion in discretionary funding for DOT in fiscal 2018. Thatês $1.5 billion more than President Trump requested.

The bill eliminates the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, an Obama-era program that provided many road improvements in states and that Trump proposed killing. The bill would also allow $45 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the Federal Aid Highways Program. The Highway Trust Fund is chronically underfunded because the gas tax has not been raised in more than 20 years.

The bill offers $100 million in –new money” for automated vehicle research and development, which is becoming a popular issue on Capitol Hill because of the promise of improved safety.

On the infrastructure front, the comprehensive bill that Trump promised early in his administration could be delayed until next year, Sen. John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, told reporters, according to The Hill. Tax reform will likely come first, and that could take a long time.

Other senators would rather work on infrastructure first, as it has a greater chance of bipartisan support. But some of the money needed to pay for infrastructure could come from a tax reform package.

After the August recess, Congress is scheduled to meet for just 65 legislative days. Their first priority will be passing a budget. But pushing infrastructure to next year is risky because it gets hard to pass any major legislative package in an election year.

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