Following on the heels of the FY18 “skinny budget” it released two weeks ago, last Friday the White House sent the House and Senate appropriations committees its budget request for the remaining five months of FY17. As detailed in a previous post, the Trump Administration’s FY18 budget request would dramatically increase defense spending and make corresponding cuts to discretionary non-defense spending, including infrastructure programs. The FY17 request follows the same vein and includes eliminating the almost $500 million TIGER grant program for the year (the FY18 budget request also calls for zeroing out TIGER). The TIGER grant program supports innovative projects that are difficult to fund through traditional federal programs. President Trump’s FY17 budget request also jumpstarts another idea his administration proposed in its FY18 budget—cutting funding for New Starts transit grants so that there would be no new funding agreements under the program. The New Starts grant program assists communities seeking to make a major investment in new or expanded transit service. The White House also seeks to cut $100 million from the Army Corps of Engineers water resources program in FY17, $516 million from the Department of Energy’s energy efficiency and renewable energy research and development grants program, and $1.5 billion from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program (which often helps fund infrastructure), in addition to across the board cuts on a variety of other programs.
However, the White House may be too late in the appropriations process to affect spending for this fiscal year. Although the fiscal year began last October, Congress has not passed a FY17 spending bill. The federal government is instead kept open by a Continuing Resolution (CR), which keeps funding at approximately FY16 levels. The current CR was passed last December and expires April 28th. If Congress and the President cannot agree on a new spending bill or CR by then, the government will shut down. Senate THUD subcommittee chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) told CQ this week, “We’re certainly looking at [the White House’s proposed cuts], but it certainly throws a monkey wrench into negotiations that were essentially completed. And the cuts are very deep in some programs that are extremely important, like the Community Development Block Grant Program and TIGER grants.”