Secretary Chao Defends Budget at T&I Hearing

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao appeared before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) on April 10 to testify about her department’s 2020 budget request.

“The President’s Budget requests a total of $84 billion to support transportation programs in FY 2020. About 75% of this request fully funds surface transportation for the “fifth” and final year of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and the Federal Aviation Administration’s authorized funding levels for the Grants-in-Aid for Airports program,” said Secretary Chao. “These programs support infrastructure improvements that are critical to maintaining dependable transportation systems that support our growing economy.”

While Secretary Chao’s comments signaled that President Trump’s administration is eager to partner with Congress on a bipartisan infrastructure package, House Democrats questioned Chao about aviation safety in lieu of the Boeing 737 Max crashes at this particular hearing. Still, Secretary Chao praised the administration’s budget request calling for $1 billion for the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants (formerly TIGER grants) and $2 billion for Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grants for freight projects.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, this year’s request is 22% less than 2019’s enacted level. Secretary Chao noted the reduction is only true for a small subset of the budget because the T&I Committee and the White House determine funding levels each year. “With this in mind, a comparison of the Department’s overall funding of $84 billion provides a more representative measure for comparison and reflects only a 4% reduction,” Secretary Chao said.

Talks remain largely positive as Republicans, Democrats and President Trump’s administration work toward agreeing on reauthorization bills and a broader infrastructure package. NSSGA will continue to advocate on behalf of its members and will remain an integral reference point for stakeholders and decision makers as 2020 budget negotiations continue.

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