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December 30, 2014
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Congress Passes Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY15

On December 16, 2014, President Obama signed the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for federal Fiscal Year (FY15), which will fund the federal government through September 30, 2015. The omnibus bill provides $1.014 trillion in discretionary funding combines 11 separate appropriations bills that support all federal government agencies, except the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

CMAP has been tracking the development of the omnibus bill because federal policy and investments in transportation, economic development, and housing play a vital role in the implementation of GO TO 2040. A previous Policy Update described the Obama Administration's initial budget proposal for FY15.

The Transportation/Housing and Urban Development (THUD) component of the omnibus appropriations bill contains $53.8 billion in funding – an increase of $2.9 billion or 6 percent compared to the FY 2014 budget. However, the THUD appropriations are below what the Administration included in its budget request last spring, as well as what was envisioned in the Administration's reauthorization proposal.

Transportation

Similar to last year's budget appropriation, THUD appropriations continue to fully fund the highway ($40.3 billion) and transit ($8.6 billion) program levels outlined in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), the current federal transportation authorization law. The bill provides $17.8 billion in discretionary spending for transportation, a small increase from FY 2014. Also consistent with budget appropriations from past years, the bill does not contain any funding for high-speed rail.

THUD Budget Appropriations:  U.S. Department of Transportation

 

FY14 THUD

FY15 THUD

Transit New Starts

$1.691 Billion

$2.147 Billion

TIGER

$600 Million

$500 million

Amtrak Capital

$1.05 Billion

$1.14 Billion

High Speed Rail

$0

$0

Source: Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning analysis of FY14 and FY15 omnibus appropriations bills.

The New Starts program, which funds major transit projects, will increase by $204 million for a total of $2.1 billion. Changes in MAP-21 opened up the New Starts program to support "core capacity" improvements, and the Chicago Transit Authority has successfully applied for funding to modernize its Red and Purple Lines as recommended in GO TO 2040. In addition, Amtrak will receive $1.14 billion in appropriations, a $90 million increase from last fiscal year. Chicago serves as the hub for Amtrak's Midwestern services, as well as the terminus for several transcontinental routes.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program will be funded at $500 million, a $100 million decrease from FY14. The TIGER provision also does not include funding for dedicated planning grants that had been included in FY 2014. The Chicago region has been successful in securing competitive TIGER grants, particularly for freight and transit projects.

Housing and Urban Development

THUD appropriations for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs will be $35.6 billion, an increase of $2.8 billion from FY14 and $1.3 billion below the Administration's budget request. Three programs of interest are funded in THUD: Choice Neighborhoods, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and HOME Investment Partnerships.

THUD Budget Appropriations:  U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

FY14 THUD

FY15 THUD

Choice Neighborhoods

$90 Million

$80 Million

CDBG

$3.03 Billion

$3.0 Billion

HOME

$1.0 Billion

$900 Million

Source: CMAP analysis of FY14 and FY15 omnibus appropriations bills.

The Choice Neighborhoods program offers assistance to neighborhoods with distressed public or public-assisted housing. The program will receive $80 million in funding, a decrease of $10 million. The CDBG program provides formula-based assistance for eligible communities to spend on neighborhood revitalization, economic development, and improved services. It is funded at $3.0 billion for FY15, remaining relatively stable from last year's funding level. The HOME program supports affordable housing development and is funded at $900 million, a $100 million decrease and still below historic funding levels.

Most importantly, the THUD budget continues not to fund comprehensive planning for transportation, housing, and land use through the Office of Economic Resilience (OER), the successor to the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI). The OER continues the cross-agency focus of SCI, and now explores planning for climate and disaster resilience. SCI was a key source of local funding for comprehensive and integrated planning efforts. It supported comprehensive planning for transportation, land use, and housing -- a key tenet of GO TO 2040 -- and provided funding for the creation of CMAP's Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program in 2010.

FY15 Appropriations and GO TO 2040

Overall, the THUD component of the omnibus bill is consistent with the policy direction of GO TO 2040. Many of its transportation appropriations would contribute to our regional transportation system, support maintenance and modernization, and promote competitive, merit-based funding programs. The bill continues to fund affordable housing, community revitalization, and economic development through the HOME and CDBG programs.

Despite these positive aspects, CMAP is concerned that the transportation appropriations still are not adequate. The omnibus bill continues the funding levels in MAP-21, which essentially provided status quo levels of funding and did not address the long-term structural challenges facing federal transportation funding. GO TO 2040 calls on policymakers to increase the federal motor fuel tax and index it to inflation, as well as to pursue a long-term replacement for the gas tax, among other recommendations to invest strategically in transportation. Further, CMAP is concerned that the bill fails to fund regional and interjurisdictional planning and implementation efforts.

As federal policy makers consider appropriations and other legislation, CMAP calls on them to support initiatives and programs that address the interconnected areas of transportation, land use, housing, the environment, and economic development, in addition to support for regional comprehensive planning efforts. The agency's Legislative and Policy Statements page includes more detail on its adopted policy principles and agendas.

 


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