Trump Administration Releases 2019 Budget Request

The Trump administration announced its fiscal year 2019 budget request on February 12, stating the President’s spending priorities for the coming year. In terms of public works and infrastructure, much of the budget numbers signal significant decreases in funding.

The request for the Department of Transportation (DOT) totals $76.8 billion, which is 19% less than FY2017 enacted levels. The President’s proposed funding levels represent 20% discretionary funding and 80% mandatory funding and is consistent with the fourth year of funding authorized by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act which was signed into law in December 2015. Budget numbers for specific public works related programs include:
  • Elimination of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant (TIGER) Program;
  • A decrease in funding to Amtrak proposes cutting federal contributions from $1.495 billion to $738 million;
  • Funding of $73 million in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) budget to develop standards for the “safe operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)” or drones;
  • The Airport Improvement Program (AIP) is proposed at its authorized level of $3.4 billion;
  • Funding for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is proposed to be at $45.8 billion and includes the following:
    • $2.6 billion for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP)
    • $23.74 billion for the National Highway Performance Program
    • $1.34 billion for the National Highway Freight Program
    • $11.88 billion for the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG)
    • $1.13 billion for the Federal Lands and Tribal Programs
    • $2.45 billion for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program
    • $300 million for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA)
    • $420 million is requested for Research, Technology and Education which includes autonomous vehicles
  • $914.7 million for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA);
    • Of the NHTSA request, $304.5 million is requested for Operations and Research which includes $13.5 million for accelerating the safe testing and deployment of automated vehicles;
  • The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is proposed to be funded at $254.3 million;
  • The Office of the Secretary of Transportation which is responsible for reviewing all USDOT policy and grant programs is proposed to be funded at $390 million, of which $10 million is included for a cyber securities initiative;
  • The budget request also proposes to realign two USDOT job training programs under the Department of Labor;
    • These programs are the “On the Job Training/Supportive Services Program” and the “Innovative Public Transportation Frontline Workforce Development Program”
For the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Trump administration provided more funding than previous years, asking for $47.5 billion. This figure is a $5 billion increase from the previous year. Within DHS, the following figures stand out for public works:
  • $152.2 million towards the United States Interoperable Emergency Communications – this program enables first responders & government officials to continue communications in the event of disasters (natural or otherwise);
    • This amount includes $42.6 million for the Next Generation Networks Priority Services (NGN-PS) Program, which provides modeling & analysis to predict and mitigate the effect of communications failures during emergencies
  • $3.34 billion for the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) (approximately a $70 million increase from the FY 2018 request) – The NPPD serves as the lead in national infrastructure protection efforts against cyber and physical threats.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) request for FY 2019 funding is $16.07 billion, a decrease of $30 million from the previous year. Within FEMA, specific programs of interest to public works include:
  • $100 million for flood-hazard mapping program – Under the FY 2018 request, the program would NOT have received any funds;
  • $6.7 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) (approximately $141 million increase from the FY 2018 request), which is targeted for response & recovery to major disasters;
  • $5.3 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) (approximately $542 million increase from the FY 2018 request) – NFIP provided $5.6 billion to policy holders in 2017;
  • $522 million for Competitive Preparedness Grant Program, including $500,000 for Measuring Results of Preparedness Grants and $11.7 million for Integrated Public Alert and Warning Systems (IPAWS) targeted in the FY 2019 request.
In terms of programs related to water and environment, cuts are significant. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget request is reduced to $6.15 billion, a cut of $2.58 billion, or 23%. Individual programs within EPA received either flat funding or significant cuts:
  • Clean Water State Revolving Fund: $1.394 billion (no change)
  • Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: $863 million (no change)
  • Water Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act program: $20 million (no change)
  • Public Water System Supervision Grant program: $67.9 million (reduction of $34 million)
  • Brownfields state and tribal assistance grants: $62 million (reduction of $17.5 million)
Additionally, programs such as the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (over $400 million), the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program (over $3 billion) and the Department of Commerce’s Public Works and Economic Development Program (over $100 million) were all proposed to be eliminated. All these programs have provided funding for public works in the water and environment space.