President Trump Releases Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request


President Trump released a $4 trillion Fiscal Year 2019 budget request entitled “Efficient, Effective, Accountable: Am American Budget” this week, just days after signing a massive two-year budget deal into law that provides about $300 billion in new spending over two years, including roughly $141 billion for non-defense spending. The President’s budget document contains a 26-page addendum to reflect the budget deal’s additional FY19 funds. Unlike previous Republican budgets, this budget proposal does not attempt to balance the federal budget over 10 years, leaving the federal government with a $445 billion deficit by the end of the decade. It cuts non-defense, domestic spending by $3.6 trillion and assumes more than $1 trillion in savings from repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, overhauling welfare programs, limiting federal financial aid, and other cuts. It also assumes that the new tax overhaul will spur $814 billion in new growth. The House and Senate Committees on Appropriation allocate the nation’s federal funds in their 12 annual appropriations bills, giving them final control over the government’s purse strings. (Since Congress has not passed a full FY18 budget or omnibus, we will be comparing this proposal to FY17 enacted funding levels.)

U.S. Department of Transportation

Under this budget request, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) would be funded at $15.6 billion in discretionary spending, a 19% cut compared to the FY17 enacted level of $19.3 billion. The addendum calls for an extra $300 million. USDOT mandatory programs would be funded at $60.9 billion, or $2.3 billion more than FY17 enacted levels. The budget includes $200 billion to support President Trump’s infrastructure proposal; it’s not included with USDOT funding recommendations but is included in the President’s overall request.

Within the Office of the Secretary, the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program would be eliminated. Remaining budget  cuts would bring the Research and Technology program from $13 million to $7 million; Transportation Planning, Research, and Development from $12 million to $7 million; and the Cyber Security Initative from $15 million to $10 million. The National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau would remain at $3 million.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) would be funded at $45.7 billion, $2 billion more than the FY17 enacted level. The Federal Highway Program’s budget for highways would conform to the amount enacted in the FAST Act ($56.6 billion). There are no new proposals to address the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) after FY21. Furthermore, the budget would change the presentation of HTF data, assuming that reimbursements to state and local governments will decrease starting in 2021.

Regarding mass transit, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) would receive $11.2 billion, $9.9 billion of which is the obligation limitation on HTF contract authority provided in the FAST Act. The budget request proposes to stop funding new projects under the Capital Investment Grants program, directly impacting new light rail and subway systems. $1 billion is requested to pay the FY19 installments of projects already under construction, and no new funding for any multi-year full funding grant agreements is requested.

Rail program funding is requested at $854 million for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), $997 million less than the FY17 enacted level. $200 million is directed for FRA operations, and the railroad research and development account would be cut in half from the FY17 enacted level of $40.1 million to $19.6 million. Furthermore, the budget would stop Amtrak Inspector General funding at $23.3 million and would encourage a net $35.85 million for the Surface Transportation Board.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would be funded at $16.1 billion. Pending reauthorization, the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) would be kept at $3.35 billion —the level at which it has been since FY12. The budget request for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration totals $254 million, nearly $10 million less than FY17 enacted levels.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

This budget request would fund the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at $4.8 billion, a more than 20% cut compared to the FY17 enacted level of $6 billion, and it proposes no new construction projects in FY19. USACE’s construction account, which currently has a backlog of $75 billion, would receive $1 billion, a 50% cut compared to FY17 enacted levels. The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which is designed to pay for dredging in harbors, would receive $932 million, a 28% cut compared to the FY17 enacted level of $1.3 billion. Furthermore, the Administration has proposed cutting the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) to align with the fund’s actual spending levels. The fund currently collects its revenue through a 0.125% user fee on the value of the cargo in imported containers. However, since 2003, HMT collections have been higher than the funds appropriated for harbor maintenance; it is estimated that the surplus of collections over expenditures is $9 billion. Frequently, this surplus is used for other purposes, including federal deficit offsets. ASCE has been supportive of Congressional efforts to guarantee that 100% of fees collected by the HMTF be allocated for its intended purpose by 2025.

Although this budget request seeks to cut the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund user fee, it proposes charging an annual per-vessel fee for commercial users of the nation’s inland waterways to be used to finance future capital waterways investments and operations and maintenance (O&M). Currently, waterways construction and O&M costs are split between the federal government and inland waterways users. The Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF) is a supported by a 29 cents/gallon tax on barge fuel; these revenues pay for 50% of waterways capital investment. The federal government funds the other 50% of capital investment, as well as full O&M costs. According to the Administration, this new fee would raise over $1.7 billion in the next 10 years that would finance barge owners’ 50% share of capital investments and 10% of O&M costs.

Finally, the Administration has requested $200 million for USACE’s regulatory program, which is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to re-write the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. rule, as well as $431 million for dam safety projects. The addendum does not request extra funding for the USACE.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

This budget request would fund the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at $5.4 billion, a more than 33% cut compared to the FY17 enacted level of $8 billion. The addendum calls for an extra $724 million, bringing the request to $6.1 billion, which is still a 23% cut compared to FY17 enacted levels. The budget request reorganizes agency spending around the Administration’s goals, categorizing 71% of spending as going toward the agency’s “core mission” and 25% for “rule of law and process,” or the cutting back of rules and regulations. The remaining funds are allocated for the agency to work with states that implement federal laws.

This proposal would cut the number of full-time EPA employees from 15,408 down to 12,250 – a 20% reduction of the agency’s workforce. The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRFs and DWSRFs, respectively), which provide low-interest loans for investments in water and sanitation infrastructure, would receive $1.86 billion, or about a 7% decrease from the FY17 enacted level of $2.01 billion. However, the addendum adds an extra $397 million to the SRF programs, bringing the total funding to $2.25 billion. The proposal would fund the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology at $449 million, a 37% cut compared to the FY17 enacted level of $714 million. It requests $718 million for Superfund clean-ups, a less than 1% increase compared to the FY17 enacted level of $713 million. However, the addendum adds an extra $327 million to the program.

Under this budget request, the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would be funded at $7.3 million and $30 million, respectively, and the funds could only be used for monitoring activities; the current funding for these programs supports a range of monitoring, clean-up, restoration, and planning activities. The funding for both programs is a 90% cut compared to the FY17 enacted funding level of $73 million and $300 million. However, it is an increase from the President’s FY18 budget request, which eliminated both programs.

Other requests from this proposal include $20 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which is the same request as last year; eliminating EPA’s authority over the Clean Water Act Section 404 and turning full authority over to the USACE; administering the agency’s Energy Star program through user fees instead of federal funds; and eliminating the Lead Risk Reduction Program, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, and the Clean Air and Global Climate Change account.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Under this budget request, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood mapping and risk analysis program would be funded at $100 million, a 43% cut compared to the FY17 enacted level of $178 million. The Administration’s explanation for this cut is to “preserve resources for the Department of Homeland Security’s core mission” and asserts that state and local governments can jump in with their own funds to fill the gap. The budget also proposes a new $522 million grant program aimed at hazard preparation.

Science Agencies

The federal science agencies had a whirlwind budget day as many of the original deep cuts to science programs were rescinded by the addendum. The original numbers included a 21% cut to overall basic research, a 27% cut at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a 29% cut to the National Science Foundation (NSF), and a 22% cut to the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science.

With the addendum, cuts at NIH, NSF, and DOE evaporate and are replaced with research budgets that are roughly flat at 2017 levels: $34.8 billion for NIH, $7.5 billion for NSF, and $5.4 billion for DOE’s science programs.

Considering the addendum to the budget, funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) would be maintained at FY17 levels, or $7.472 billion. The request allocates $6 billion for its six research directorates which would grow by $145 million, or 2%. The bump is largely thanks to the proposed start of an upgrade to Antarctic research facilities, although NSF officials don’t yet have an exact figure. NSF’s education directorate would stay flat at $819 million. The biggest change would occur in NSF’s account for large new facilities; it would drop by more than half, to $95 million, because NSF is requesting money for only two of the three midsized research vessels that Congress has instructed it to build.

The budget request calls for the elimination of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, (ARPA-E). The agency received $180 million in FY17.

The budget request also calls for canceling five National Aeronautics and Space Administrations (NASA) earth science missions, including an operating Earth-facing camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite and the planned Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem satellite, set for launch in 2022, which would assess the ocean’s health and its interactions with the atmosphere. Overall, the President’s request is for $19.9 billion for the space agency, a $372 million increase over FY17 enacted levels.

The National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), which develops compliance standards on everything from cybersecurity to digital authentication to information sharing for both industry and government, would face a massive cut in fund and personnel under the White House budget proposal. Under the FY19 spending plan, the Administration would defund NIST by more than a third of what it received in FY17. The proposal gives NIST a $629 million budget, more than a $316 million reduction from its FY17 enacted level. In addition, the budget document would also cut NIST’s workforce by nearly 400 employees — more than a 15% reduction.

The budget request would fund the U.S. Geological Society (USGS) at $860 million, a 20% cut compared to the FY17 enacted level of $1.03 billion. It allocates $13 million in funding for just three of the eight regional climate science centers and one national climate adaptation center. All other climate change research programs would be moved to a new “land resources” program.

The proposal calls for funding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at $4.6 billion, a 20% cut from the FY17 enacted level of $5.52 billion. It also requests eliminating the National Sea Grant College Program, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, coastal zone management grants, the Office of Education, and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.

The budget request would fund the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at $971 million, slightly more than a 6% increase compared to the FY17 enacted level of $911 million. Despite the increased funding, the Administration has requested a 4% decrease in the agency’s workforce, or a cut of 149 full-time employees. The proposal also asks for $48 million to support activities for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

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