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Senate Appropriations Committee approves FY 2019 transportation funding bill

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Senate appropriations bill sets FY 2019 DOT funding at $26.6 billion, about $1 billion less than House version. Senate bill would permit $46 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the federal aid highways program.

On June 7, the U.S.  Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) spending bill on a unanimous vote. The appropriations bill would provide $26.6 billion in funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for FY 2019, $698 million below FY 2018 enacted levels and $1.2 million below the FY 2019 House appropriations bill of the same name. Congressional appropriators must set and pass FY 2019 spending levels before the current fiscal year ends on September 30, 2018.

HIGHWAY FUNDING

The Senate appropriations bill would permit $46 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the Federal Aid Highways Program, $1 billion above FY 2018 and level with the FY 2019 House appropriations bill. This funding matches the amount authorized in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 (P.L. No. 114-94). Counties rely on this funding to support our strong federal-state-local partnerships for developing infrastructure. Funding will be directed to the following programs:

  • BUILD grant program: The bill would provide $1 billion for the BUILD discretionary grant program for FY 2019, $500 million below the FY 2018 enacted level and $250 million above the FY 2019 House appropriations bill. Formerly known as TIGER Grants, BUILD grants were implemented to better reflect the current administration’s infrastructure agenda, including a focus on rural areas and a local matching requirement.
  • Funding for road and bridge projects: The bill would provide $3.3 billion for FY 2019, $500 million below the FY 2019 House appropriations bill, to fund the renovation, expansion and rehabilitation of road and bridge projects that qualify for the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program.

TRANSIT FUNDING

The bill would provide $13.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), $141 million above FY 2018 levels and $1 million below the FY 2019 House appropriations bill.

  • Transit Formula Grants: Transit formula grants would total $9.9 billion for FY 2019 – a $200 million increase from FY 2018 and level with the FY 2019 House appropriations bill – to help local communities build, maintain and ensure the safety of mass transit systems. Within this amount, $2.6 billion is provided for Capital Investment Grants, which is level with FY 2018 funding and the FY 2019 House appropriations bill.

FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA)

The Senate appropriations bill would allocate $17.7 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for FY 2019, $310 million below the FY 2018 enacted level and $7.3 million below the FY 2019 House appropriations bill. The FAA supports all air traffic control personnel, including over 14,500 air traffic controllers, 7,400 safety inspectors and operational support personnel. Counties play a critical role in the nation’s air transportation system and own 34 percent of the nation’s publicly-owned airports.

  • Essential Air Service (EAS) Program: The bill would receive $175 million in discretionary funding to the EAS program, which complies with the 2014 Compliance Order capping the program at $200 million annually. The FY 2019 funding would be a $20 million increase above FY 2018 enacted levels and level with the FY 2019 House appropriations bill. The EAS program assists airlines serving rural counties impacted by changes in the airline industry.
  • Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASDP): The bill includes $10 million in funding for SCASDP, which is level with FY 2018 funding. SCASDP provides communities the opportunity to self-identify air service needs and propose solutions. Participation in the program is limited to those communities where the airport is not larger than a primary small hub, the service is insufficient or air fares to the community are unreasonably high.

TRANSPORTATION SAFETY PROGRAMS

The legislation contains language impacting various transportation safety regulations, including: a policy rider on truck drivers’ hours transporting livestock. The bill includes NACo supported language to exempt livestock and insect haulers from the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) and Hours of Service Final Rule through FY 2019.

NACo will continue to work with both House and Senate appropriators to ensure level or increased funding for key transportation programs.

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