Last week, ASCE submitted its Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations requests to Congress, including to the following House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees: Energy & Water Development; Transportation, Housing & Urban Development; Commerce, Justice & Science; Interior & Environment; and Homeland Security. Overall, ASCE recommends that Congress and President Trump work to increase funding for existing federal infrastructure programs that have proven successful. Providing more funding to existing programs rather than creating new programs will reduce overhead costs and startups while still allowing for significant and noticeable improvements across all sectors of U.S. infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Congress held several hearings this week to review the President’s FY21 Budget Request. The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the President’s FY21 budget request for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) where Secretary Dan Brouillette defended the Administration’s proposed 8% cut in funding to the agency. The largest proposed cuts would be to the agency’s clean energy program, where the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see a 75% reduction, while the Office of Science would see a 17% decrease in funding compared to the FY20 enacted level.
Across Capitol Hill, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler testified in front of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment regarding the President’s FY21 budget request for the agency. Under this proposal, the EPA would see a 27% reduction in funding compared to the FY20 enacted level. It would fund the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds at nearly $2 billion, a cut of about $700 million (or about 25%) from the FY20 enacted level and would provide $25 million in funding for the Water Infrastructure & Innovation Finance Act (WIFIA) credit program, a cut of $35 million (or about 58%) from the FY20 enacted level.
The House Natural Resources Committee heard from Susan Combs, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the U.S. Department of Interior, regarding the President’s FY21 budget request for that agency. The proposal calls for slashing the popular Land & Water Conservation Fund by 97% but includes $6.5 million for a new, dedicated trust fund to address the National Park Services’ (NPS) $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog, which includes $5.9 billion in transportation backlogs such as roads and bridges and $5.7 billion in non-transportation backlogs such as drinking water and electrical infrastructure systems. Earlier this week, President Trump tweeted support for legislation that would fully and permanently fund the LWCF (S. 1081) and address the NPS’ deferred maintenance backlog (S. 500, the Restore Our Parks Act and H.R. 1225, the Restore Our Parks & Public Lands Act). ASCE supports fully funding the LWCF and passing the Restore Our Parks/Restore Our Parks & Public Lands Act. The Senate is expected vote on both bills in the near future.
Both the House and Senate Transportation, Housing & Urban Development Subcommittees heard from U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao on the Administration’s FY21 DOT budget request. In both House and Senate hearings, DOT Secretary Chao provided testimony on spending priorities with the upcoming FAST Act reauthorization, including a goal of a 10-year authorization that would include investments in rural communities, address road and bridge bottlenecks, and support a restructured regulatory environment. Lawmakers on both sides of Capitol Hill voiced concern for the Administration’s request to cut $90 million in the Capital Investment Grant program; absence of a fix to the Highway Trust Fund; support for passenger rail investments; and the need to provide safety measures against the growing coronavirus threat.