APWA Advocates is the network of APWA members committed to promoting APWA’s legislative priorities to Congress through outreach and education. To learn more about APWA Advocates, or to join, explore the links to the right! You can also read the latest legislative updates and action alerts below.
During a rare Saturday session on December 13, the Senate passed HR 83, the fiscal year 2015 (FY 15) spending bill, by a vote of 56-40. The Senate passage comes after the House of Representatives narrowly passed the bill on Thursday, December 11 by a vote of 219-206. The $1.1 trillion spending bill keeps the federal government funded until September 30, 2015, and now heads to President Obama for his signature. The federal government was previously funded by a short term continuing resolution (CR) that expired on December 11. The Senate also passed an additional short term CR, extending government funding through December 17 to give the President enough time to sign HR 83 into law.
HR 83, also known as the ‘CRomnibus,’ contains both an omnibus which funds 11 of the 12 annual appropriations bills and a CR that temporarily provides funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Below are funding and policy highlights from sections of the bill most relevant to public works.
Transportation, Housing & Urban Development
The Transportation, Housing & Urban Development (T-HUD) portion of the bill received $58.3 billion in funding. This total includes $17.8 billion in funding for the Department of Transportation (DOT) and $500 million for the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER Discretionary Grant) program. The TIGER program funds competitive grants for state and local road, transit, port, and railroad construction projects.
The bill also provides nearly $41 billion for the Federal Highway program – the same level authorized in the MAP-21(Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act)transportation authorization legislation, which expires on May 31, 2015. Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is funded at $12.4 billion and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) received $1.6 billion. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) received $2.3 billion and the Capital Investment Grants program, or New Starts, received $2.1 billion. The New Starts program provides competitive grants for major transit investments. This section also includes funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration which received $830 million and $584 million respectively.
HR 83 includes $35.6 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Community Development Block Grant formula program received $3 billion which is a $30 million reduction from FY 14. The CDBG program funds local community development activities such as affordable housing and infrastructure development.
The Energy-Water section of the “CRomnibus” is funded at $34.2 billion for FY15. This total is $142 million over FY 14 and includes $5.5 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, which is $15 million more than FY 14. The Army Corps constructs projects for flood control, water navigation, storm damage reduction, beach nourishment, ecological restoration, water supply and dam and levee safety. Funding for the Army Corps includes $2.3 billion for navigation projects and studies, $1.1 billion from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and $1.6 billion for flood and storm damage mitigation. This section of the bill also provides $50 million for drought relief in the Western states.
The Interior-Environment section received $30 billion in funding, including $8.1 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and $10.7 billion for the Department of the Interior. The funding for Interior-Environment is $14 billion less than FY14. The total for EPA represents a 21% reduction in funding since 2010, and a $60 million reduction from FY 14 levels. Additionally, this bill reduces EPA staff to the lowest levels since 1989. This section includes $2.35 billion for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, and funds the Great Lakes Restoration initiative at $300 million. HR 83 included some policy riders restricting EPA’s ability to enforce environmental regulations, such as regulating greenhouse gas emissions from farming practices and lead content in sporting goods. Congressional Republicans were also expected to include a policy rider that would block EPA’s recent waters of the US rulemaking, but strong Democratic opposition kept the rider out of the bill.
The bill also provides $2.4 billion for rural development programs. Programs funded by this section of the bill invest in infrastructure in small cities and rural communities, and provide loans for rural businesses. The bill also provides $859 million for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which manages the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) that was authorized in the latest Farm Bill. The RCPP encourages farmers to partner with non-agricultural entities, such as wastewater utilities and municipal storm water agencies, to use available resources to reduce nutrient runoff pollution. As a member of the Healthy Waters Coalition, APWA worked to include the RCPP in the Farm Bill.
Department of Homeland Security
Funding for the Department of Homeland Security is frozen at FY 14 levels until February 27, 2015. Congressional Republicans were critical of President Obama’s recent executive order to protect five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Immigration law falls under DHS jurisdiction, and Congress chose not to authorize year-long funding to limit the Obama Administration’s ability to enforce the executive order.
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