Washington Insight

Congress begins annual appropriations process

Heather McTavish
Government Relations Coordinator
APWA Washington, D.C. office

In spring and early summer in Washington, all eyes turn towards Congress and the annual budget and appropriations process. In late March and early April, Congress passed a budget resolution based, in part, on the budget outline that President Bush submitted in early February. On April 9, President Bush formally unveiled his fiscal year 2002 budget, filling in the details of the outline he sent to Congress on February 28.

The House adopted its version of the fiscal 2002 budget sticking closely to the President's bottom line. The Senate budget resolution calls for $689.2 billion in discretionary budget authority-$28.6 billion, or 4.3 percent, more than Bush has asked for and 8.6 percent more than the $634.9 billion being spent in FY 2001. The Senate version also includes more than 100 amendments that differ from the House version of the budget resolution.

While these proposals declare the priorities of the Administration and the Congressional leadership, they are only a blueprint. The numbers in the budget resolution will be implemented through the appropriations process and the budget reconciliation process. Appointed conferees will meet to develop a compromise agreement on the budget resolution. The budget resolution will set the spending levels and provide reconciliation instructions to guide the work of both the appropriations and tax writing committees throughout the budget process.

Once the budget resolution is adopted, the appropriations process begins. The 13 subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee are preparing for a long spring and summer of markups and floor debate on FY 2002 appropriations bills, funds that finance discretionary programs. The subcommittees have been gathering information from members of Congress, interest groups, and the public on various priorities. Congress has until the beginning of October 2001 to finish up these bills.

The following are summaries of President Bush's dollar requests for EPA, DOT, and FEMA.

Environmental Protection Agency
The President's budget proposes $7.3 billion for fiscal year 2002, an increase of $56 million over the budget request from last year. The budget provides state and tribal programs about half of EPA's budget, approximately $3.3 billion in grants for states, tribes, and other EPA partners. That amount is a half-billion dollars more than was requested for the same grants in FY 2001.

The budget proposes $2.1 billion in grants to states for water infrastructure needs. The grants include: Clean Water State Revolving Fund-$850 million; Drinking Water State Revolving Fund-$823 million; and Sewer Overflow Control Grants-$450 million.

President Bush's budget increases resources available for local brownfields rehabilitation to $97.7 million from the $92.6 million enacted in FY 2001.

Department of Transportation
President Bush's budget fully funds TEA-21, mass transit programs, AIR-21 and Amtrak in a manner consistent with agreed-to authorized funding levels. The President's proposed 2002 budget for the Department of Transportation is set at $59.5 billion, six percent above the 2001 funding level.

The Federal Transit Administration would receive $6.7 billion under Bush's budget, an increase of eight percent from fiscal year 2001. The Federal Highway Administration's budget would increase to $31.6 billion, an increase of seven percent over the previous year's funding. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would receive $419 million, up from $404 million.

The President's budget proposes to establish and fund a new program called the New Freedom Initiative, an innovative transportation program designed to promote innovative transportation solutions for people with disabilities. The proposed funding for the program would come from Revenue Aligned Budget Authority (RABA) funds protected under the TEA-21 bill. Congress would have to agree to allow these funds to be used for the new program.

Funding for mass transit would increase by eight percent, or $3.6 billion in FY 2002. Amtrak receives $521 million, almost identical to the amount received in FY 2001. A total of $25 million will be used to fund high-speed rail projects.

Federal Emergency Management Agency
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would receive $2.2 billion in fiscal 2002, about $200 million more than Bush proposed in February but still about eight percent below the agency's $2.4 billion budget for FY 2001.

The budget calls for $1.4 billion for disaster relief efforts, down from $1.6 billion in FY 2001. FEMA would also provide $140 million in funds for emergency food and shelter programs.

President Bush hopes to create a National Emergency Reserve to deal with large-scale disasters, with $5.6 billion in funding fiscal year 2002. The fund-the use of which would require approval of Congress and the President-is intended to reduce the need for supplemental "emergency" disaster relief appropriations.

For more information, please contact Heather McTavish in the DC office at 202-408-9541 or at hmctavish@apwa.net.