Congress Releases Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY14
On January 17, 2014, the President signed the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, which ends September 30, 2014. Combining 12 separate appropriations bills, the omnibus bill provides $1.012 trillion in discretionary funding for the operation of all aspects of the federal government through the remainder of the FY14.
CMAP has been tracking the development of this omnibus bill because federal policy and investments in transportation, economic development, and housing play a vital role in the implementation of GO TO 2040. Previous Policy Updates described the Obama Administration's initial budget proposal for FY14, along with the transportation components of the initial House and Senate appropriations bills.
The Transportation/Housing and Urban Development (THUD) component of the omnibus appropriations bill contains $50.9 billion in funding -- a decrease of $961 million or 2 percent compared to its FY13 budget. The THUD appropriations are also $7.2 billion below what the Administration included in its budget request last spring, not including the $50 billion one-time stimulus package for the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) that was excluded in original House and Senate appropriations bills.
THUD appropriations fully fund the highway and transit program levels outlined in Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), the current federal transportation authorization law, providing $40.3 billion for federal-aid highways and $8.6 billion for transit formula programs. Similar to budget appropriations from past years, the bill does not contain any funding for high-speed rail.
Three important programs -- TIGER, New Starts, and Amtrak -- will receive increased funding in FY14. These programs are particularly relevant to northeastern Illinois, which is home to the nation's second largest transit network and serves as the continent's premier rail hub.
The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program will receive a substantial $126 million boost in funding for a total of $600 million. The Chicago region has been successful in securing competitive TIGER grants, particularly for freight and transit projects. The New Starts program, which funds new transit projects, will increase by $88 million for a total of $1.9 billion. Changes in MAP-21 opened up the New Starts program to support "core capacity" improvements, which allows the Chicago Transit Authority to apply for funding through the program to modernize its Red and Purple Lines as recommended in GO TO 2040. Finally, Amtrak will receive $1.05 billion in appropriations, a $43 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.
Housing and Urban Development
THUD appropriations for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs will receive $32.8 billion, a decrease of $683 million and $14.8 million 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.
The Choice Neighborhoods program offers assistance to neighborhoods with distressed public or public-assisted housing. The program will receive $90 million in funding, a decrease of $26 million. Importantly, the THUD bill contains language that now allows the program to fund conversion of vacant, abandoned, or foreclosed property into affordable housing. The CDBG program provides formula-based assistance for eligible communities to spend on neighborhood revitalization, economic development, and improved services. CDBG is funded at $3.03 billion for FY14, remaining relatively stable from last year's funding level of $3.07 billion and surviving cuts proposed by the Administration. However, as noted in our prior Policy Update, CDBG is at historically low funding levels. The HOME program supports affordable housing development and is funded at $1 billion, a $53 million increase but still below historic funding levels.
The Administration requested $75 million in funds for a new Office of Economic Resilience (OER), proposed as a successor to the HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative. Neither the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI), a historic collaboration between HUD, U.S. DOT, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nor the Office of Economic Resilience received funding in the THUD bill. SCI was a key source of local funding for comprehensive and integrated planning efforts. It supported planning across 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. Though its three-year SCI grant expired in December 2013, CMAP will continue the LTA program with new funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, the Illinois Attorney General, and more.
FY14 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 help contribute to our regional 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. Despite significant unmet needs, MAP-21 essentially provided status quo levels of funding and did not address the long-term structural challenges that face 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 proposed for a new OER within HUD, which would continue some of the work of the SCI.
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 2013 federal agenda includes specific guidance, which will soon be updated for 2014.