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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE-House THUD Subcommittee Releases Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Bill

Late Tuesday, July 11, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development released its Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bill. The overall bill holds to House Republican promises of reducing spending by providing $90.243 billion in total funding, which is $8.633 billion below funding levels requested in President Biden’s budget. Key Highway Funding Provisions Of key importance to the Highway Users, this bill does not cut the highway funding elements of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). So, as to funding from the Highway Trust Fund, the bill adopts IIJA’s FY 2024 highway program obligation authority funding levels of $60.1 billion in obligation limit plus $739 million in additional obligation authority. The bill also leaves untouched $27.5 billion in bridge formula money provided in IIJA from the General Fund; these funds help address a key priority of the Highway Users, addressing the backlog of bridge repairs. However, unlike annual appropriations bills in recent years, the bill does not include significant funding for highway programs in addition to IIJA funding. While not cutting back IIJA money already provided for highways, the bill would reduce recent levels of funding provided in the annual appropriations bill for RAISE and a different bridge program, for example. But, importantly, the House Appropriators are meeting their highway funding obligations in the IIJA. Also, the bill includes $1.2 billion in highway Community Project Funding, also known as earmarks, which could support highway or bridge projects. Policy Issues Beyond top line funding levels, the bill includes provisions addressing regulatory and programmatic issues of interest to the Highway Users. Most specifically, the bill would prohibit any funds from being used by the Department of Transportation to implement or enforce the Federal Highway Administration’s Greenhouse Gas emissions rule. The Highway Users have been extremely concerned by this proposed rule, and we encouraged the agency to withdraw its proposed rule in our comments last fall. We are pleased to see the House include language prohibiting the implementation of this rule. Furthermore, we have learned that the proposed final rule for Greenhouse Gas Performance Measurements has been sent by the Department of Transportation to the Office of Management and Budget for approval, making this prohibition language even more important. The bill includes a number of additional policy riders, including one that would prohibit DOT from imposing burdensome grant requirements on state and local applicants in the name of equity. Other Issues While not of direct concern to highway programs, it is highly likely that other aspects of the proposed legislation will be controversial to some. For example, annual funding for Amtrak and transit discretionary grants would be significantly reduced. Also, reaching into a non-transportation topic, to help pay for the bill, the bill would rescind $25.035 billion in advanced appropriations from the Inflation Reduction Act for the Internal Revenue Service. Such provisions could have an impact on how quickly the bill can advance. Next Steps and Conclusion Upon introduction, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development quickly scheduled and held markup on Wednesday July 12. The markup in the subcommittee was brief, and the bill passed by a voice vote, without any amendments considered. This was expected as the Highway Users have heard that the plan is to consider all amendments to this bill during the full committee markup, which could occur next week. Should this bill pass the full committee and be brought to the floor of the whole House, it is expected that there will be another opportunity to offer amendments to this bill. Also, next week the Senate Appropriations Committee may mark up its version of this legislation. As you may recall, in May, the Highway Users sent letters to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House and Senate THUD Appropriations Subcommittees, urging them to increase highway funding above FY 2023. As discussed above the House bill does not do that, and as also noted above, it does not include additional General Fund money for bridges. Last month the Highway Users and several of its members met with staff for the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. We had a very constructive conversation regarding the need to exceed FY 2023 funding for highways, and we are hopeful that the Senate appropriations bill will include more highway and bridge funding than the House bill does. In conclusion, while this just released House bill does maintain IIJA highway funding levels, it would cut highway funding provided in previous fiscal years in the annual appropriations bill. We will remain active in the process to maximize highway funding and favorable policy outcomes and will keep you informed.

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