THE BAD NEWS
The US President revealed a 2018 budget proposal today that includes cuts to transportation programs, including elimination of transportation TIGER Grants.
According to The Hill: "The Department of Transportation faces a $2.4 billion cut under President Trump's proposed federal budget blueprint — a surprising figure given Trump's pledges to improve US infrastructure. The department's funding would be cut by 13 percent, to $16.2 billion, according to the proposal released early Thursday."
"The blueprint also eliminates funding for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, which was set up by the Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus package (ARRA) to provide an extra injection of cash for surface transportation projects."
The exact wording in the President's budget blueprint: "Eliminates funding for the unauthorized TIGER discretionary grant program, which awards grants to projects that are generally eligible for funding under existing surface transportation formula programs, saving $499 million from the 2017 annualized CR level."
This is not welcome news for the ITS industry, because TIGER grants have served as a great way for cities and states to fund ITS projects they could not afford otherwise. As mentioned in a February ITSdigest blog, as part of ARRA, the TIGER grants were considered the most successful way to fund ITS projects – possibly because they were judged on a case-by-case basis, based on factors such as expected performance.
THE GOOD NEWS
The good news: this is just a proposal, reflecting the President's recommendations. It is not a done deal. Congress still has to draft and approve a formal budget.
In a statement today, Senator John McCain (AZ Republican) said: "It is clear that this budget proposed today cannot pass the Senate."
In addition, Democrats are already fighting back. In a statement today, Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR Democrat), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said: "Over the last few years, President Trump repeatedly promised the American people that he wanted to rebuild and replace our aging network of crumbling roads, bridges, airports, transit systems, railways, ports, and water systems. The President’s budget, released today, guts many of those very investments—the exact opposite of what he promised ... He promised to invest a trillion dollars in our infrastructure, but his budget eliminates all funding for long-distance trains, TIGER grants, and new transit projects that create jobs and spur economic growth in our communities ... I would pronounce it dead on arrival, but my Republican colleagues have beat me to the punch."
One other positive note worth mentioning is that the $1 trillion infrastructure plan proposed by Democrats in January set aside $10 billion in funds for TIGER grants. In response to today's White House proposal, Democrats are already vowing to save the TIGER grants.
The USDOT says: "Since 2009, the TIGER grant program has provided a combined $5.1 billion to 421 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and tribal communities."