Last Friday the White House sent Congress its initial $1.5 trillion budget request for discretionary appropriations in fiscal year (FY) 2022. Known as the ‘skinny budget,’ the document provides the first glimpse of President Biden’s spending priorities. The 58- page budget request is the first since 2013 that is not tied to spending caps, which Congress has implemented in the past to ensure discretionary defense spending and discretionary non-defense spending grow at approximately the same rate. Overall, this initial insight to the President’s request shows a 16% increase in non-defense spending to $769 billion, while defense spending would see only a 1.7% increase to $753 billion. It is important to note that the skinny budget does not reflect further details on the $2.2 trillion American Jobs Plan or changes in taxation. These details will be included in a full budget proposal, which will be submitted later this spring.
ASCE has reviewed the proposal for some initial understanding about the President’s infrastructure spending priorities. Key infrastructure figures include:
- $25.6 billion for the Department of Transportation (DOT). This is a $317 million increase from the FY21 enacted level providing a $3.2 billion, or a 14% increase, for DOT discretionary programs. Included under the increase in discretionary programs is $2.7 billion, or a 5% increase, for Amtrak; $2.5 billion, or a 23% increase, for the Capital Investment Grant program; $625 million for a new passenger rail competitive grant program; $110 million in new funding for grants and technical assistance to communities to improve access to destinations and foster community vibrancy; and $1 billion for the BUILD grant program.
- $11.2 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is a $2 billion, or 21.3%, increase from the FY21 enacted level. Included under the request for EPA is $3.6 billion for water infrastructure, an increase of $625 million over the FY21 enacted levels; $1.8 billion in programs that would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions; $882 million for the Superfund Remedial program; and $75 million to accelerate toxicity studies related to PFAS.
- $46.1 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE). This is a $4.3 billion, or 10.2%, increase from the FY21 enacted level. Included under the request for DOE is $1.9 billion in a Building Clean Energy Projects and Workforce Initiative, $1 billion for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate, and $7.4 billion in the Office of Science to better study climate change impacts.
- $27.8 billion for the Department of Agriculture (USDA). This is a $3.8 billion, or 16%, increase from the FY21 enacted level. Included under the request for USDA is $65 million over FY21 enacted levels for Reconnect, grant and loan program to deploy broadband, and $717 million for Rural Water and Wastewater Grants and Loans which is a $100 million increase over FY21 enacted levels.
- $17.4 billion for the Department of Interior (DOI). This is a $2.4 billion, or 16%, increase from the FY21 enacted level. Included under this request for DOI is $550 million over the FY21 enacted level to decrease climate pollution and accelerate clean energy deployment and $200 million to provide information about the impacts of climate change and how best to implement mitigation, adaptation, and resilience efforts.
- $11.4 billion for the Department of Commerce. This is a $2.5 billion, or 28%, increase from the FY21 enacted level. This includes $916 million to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for research activities and an additional $1.4 billion to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to conduct climate research and help the most vulnerable communities.
- $6.8 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works Program. This represents a 13% decrease from the FY21 enacted level of $7.8 billion. This cut to the Corps of Engineers is common in Presidential budgets, as they look to offset big budget increases elsewhere.
For science and education, the proposal includes:
- $102.8 billion for the Department of Education (ED). This is a $30 billion, or 41%, increase FY21 enacted levels. Specific number were not presented but increases mentioned for higher education Pell Grants and STEM programs.
- $10.2 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). This is an increase of $1.7 billion, or 19.8%, increase FY21 enacted levels. In a change of pace from recent years budget requests, NSF is the big winner among the science agencies. Within the 19.8% increase for the Foundation, the research and education accounts together will increase by $1.6 billion over FY21 levels.
- $24.7 billion for the National Aeronautics and Atmospheric Administration (NASA). This is an increase of $1.5 billion, or 6.3%, increase FY21 enacted levels. There are scientific and engineering missions called out in the budget document, but no specific breakdown of budget numbers below the top line.
President Biden’s detailed budget request is expected to be delivered to Congress in the coming weeks. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committee will then begin to review the requests as they develop their 12 annual spending bills. Current government funding expires on September 30th.
ASCE applauds the White House’s commitment to making strong investments in our nation’s infrastructure. We urge Congress to fund these agencies and successful programs, especially those included in our FY22 appropriations request letters. Providing more funding to core programs will reduce overhead costs and startup time while still allowing for significant and noticeable improvements across all sectors of U.S. infrastructure.
Our infrastructure is the backbone of our nation’s economy, and we ask Congress to engage in bold leadership so that we can restore America’s world-class infrastructure.