Tuesday evening, the House of Representatives finished floor debate and passed, by a vote of 216- 210, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations bill. The House voted on the first series of amendments to the bill last week, and completed amendments before voting for final passage late Tuesday night (June 9, 2015).
As with the Committee-approved bill, the final House THUD FY 2016 Appropriations bill funds the core Federal Transit Administration (FTA) formula programs at the FY 2015 enacted level of $8.595 billion (funded from the Highway Trust Fund Mass Transit Account). The measure provides another $2.15 billion for transit programs funded from the General Fund, including $1.92 billion for FTA Capital Investment Grants (New Starts and Core Capacity). Other programs such as TIGER Grants, Amtrak Capital and Debt Service Grants, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), as well as many programs funded by General Funds saw cuts. A chart showing FY 2015 enacted levels compared to the President’s request, as well as the House FY 2016 appropriations can be found here.
Below are the results of the amendments postponed from last week and voted on Tuesday:
- An amendment offered by Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that would reduce spending for all accounts in the bill by 1 percent. This amendment was defeated by a roll call vote of 163 – 259.
- An amendment offered by Representative Bill Posey (R-FL) prohibiting funds from being used by DOT to finance a new passenger rail project that runs from Orlando to Miami through Indian River County, Florida. The amendment’s sponsor seeks to prevent funding from being provided for the “All Aboard Florida” project. This amendment was defeated by a roll call vote of 163 – 260.
- An amendment offered by Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) prohibiting funds from being used by Amtrak to support the route with the highest loss, measured by contributions/(loss) per rider. The amendment would eliminate the “Sunset Limited” line from New Orleans to Los Angeles. This amendment was defeated by a roll call vote of 205 – 218.
- An amendment offered by Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) prohibiting funds from being used by Amtrak to operate any route whose operating costs exceed two times its revenues based
- on the National Railroad Passenger Corporation FY2014-2018 Five Year Plan from April 2014. The amendment sponsor seeks to eliminate funding for Amtrak’s long distance routes. This amendment was defeated by a roll call vote of 186 – 237.
- An amendment offered by Representative Bill Posey (R-FL) prohibiting funds from being used to authorize private activity bonds to finance passenger rail projects that do use vehicles reasonably expected to be capable of attaining a maximum speed in excess of 150 mph. The amendment’s sponsor objects to the approval of private activity bonds for the “All Aboard Florida” project. APTA’s Recommendations for Surface Transportation Authorization seek to broaden eligibility and encourage greater use of private activity bonds in public transportation. This amendment was defeated by a roll call vote of 148 – 275.
- An amendment offered by Representative Bill Posey (R-FL) prohibiting funds from being used to make a loan in an amount that exceeds $600 million under title V of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976. Again, the amendment’s sponsor objects to the approval of a Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program loan application for the “All Aboard Florida” project. APTA’s Recommendations for Surface Transportation Authorization seek to greatly expand, rather than limit the use of the DOT/FRA RRIF loan program. This amendment was defeated by a roll call vote of 134 – 287.
In addition to the votes postponed from last week, several new transit amendments were offered late in the day on Tuesday. Representative Patrick Meehan (R-PA) offered an amendment prohibiting funds from being used by Amtrak for projects off of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) until the amount spend on capital projects on the NEC in FY 2016 equals the amount of Amtrak’s profits from that line in FY 2015. This amendment was defeated by a roll call vote of 199 – 227. Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN) also offered an amendment prohibiting funds from being used to carry out enrichment for any New Start grant request. This amendment was also defeated by a roll call vote of 212 – 214. Late on
Tuesday, an amendment was offered by Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) which prohibits funds from being used by the FTA to implement, administer, or enforce section 18.36(c)(2) of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, in order to promote “local hire” initiatives for construction hiring purposes.This amendment was adopted by voice vote. In response to the regulatory docket
on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Geographic-Based Hiring Preferences in Administering Federal Awards [Docket DOT–OST–2015–0013], APTA recently provided comments expressing the views of the industry.
Another amendment adopted by voice vote was one offered by Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA) prohibiting funds from being used for high-speed rail in California or for the California High-Speed Rail Authority.
This legislation will now be sent to the Senate, where the Appropriations Committee has not yet scheduled a mark-up of their version of a Transportation-HUD bill.
Hearings scheduled in House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees on Highway Trust Fund Finance Needs
Under rather short notice, each of the tax-writing committees in Congress has scheduled a hearing for next week to examine transportation funding needs and the challenges facing the Highway Trust Fund and its revenue stream.
On Wednesday, June 17, the House Committee on Ways and Means will hold a hearing on Long-Term Financing of the Highway Trust Fund. The hearing will take place at 10:00 a.m. in room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building. As this Legislative Alert was being completed, the witness list for the hearing had not yet been announced. For more information on this hearing, visit the committeewebsite here.
On Thursday, June 18, the Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing titled “Dead End, No Turn Around, Danger Ahead: Challenges to the Future of Highway Funding”. The hearing will take place at 10:00 a.m. in room 215 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. For more information on this hearing, visit the committee website here. The witnesses will include:
- Dr. Joseph Kile, Assistant Director for Microeconomic Studies Division, Congressional Budget Office
- The Honorable Ray LaHood, Senior Policy Advisor, DLA Piper
- Mr. Stephen Moore, Distinguished Visiting Fellow, The Heritage Foundation