Update: The resolution subsequently passed the House 228-191 vote, with ten Republicans defecting and without a single Democratic vote.
Last Wednesday (March 21) the House Budget Committee passed a proposed 2013 budget resolution that would reduce Highway Trust Fund spending authority by 36% – from $88.6 billion this year to just $57.1 billion in FY 2013. The budget resolution is the blueprint for all of the appropriations committees to craft the year’s spending bills. FY 2013 begins on October 1, 2012. The proposal is expected to pass the entire House this week.
The steep cut in transportation and other programs are part of an effort by Republicans to reduce the deficit, and in some cases the scope of federal government activities. The 36% reduction reflects the GOP’s desire to limit spending to an amount that can be supported by Highway Trust Fund revenues.
Unlike last year, when a similar cut was proposed (and shelved), this year’s proposal permits higher spending if additional, deficit-neutral funding can be identified – for example, a gas tax increase or general fund transfer.
The House Budget Resolution proposes a 2013 discretionary spending level that would be $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion level included in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was signed into law as part of the debt ceiling and deficit control agreement reached last year. In spite of the deep cuts, some Republicans threatened to hold out for deeper cuts.
Senate Democratic leadership has announced it will adhere to the bipartisan budget deal. Therefore appropriators in the House and Senate once again will be working with different spending levels. This could complicate the effort to come to agreement on FY 2013 appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Even before the budget proposals were revealed, most observers expected a stopgap funding bill to last through the election, with a FY 2013 spending bill to be enacted in a post-election lame duck session.
Last month the White House proposed a 2013 transportation budget of $74 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation and recommended a six-year surface transportation reauthorization totaling $476 billion. It was funded in part with savings from reduced military operations in the Middle East – a proposal that the House and some Democrats have declared DOA. For more information see our story, “White House’s Summary of USDOT 2013 Budget Proposal.”
USDOT’s Division chiefs testified before the House last week about the White House budget proposal. AASHTO summarizes the event in this short story.