President Trump's Other Infrastructure Plan—Defunding Grant Programs

The showman captured America's attention with a promise to "make America great again" with a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Receiving scant attention are the infrastructure grant programs he'll cut in order to fund massive defense spending.
March 16, 2017, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Expect massive cuts to the TIGER grant program, if not elimination, reports Melanie Zanona for The Hill, because "[t]he administration is proposing to increase defense spending by $54 billion and cut non-defense spending by the same amount."

“It’s very inconsistent,” Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) told The Hill. “The real question is, with the cuts he’s proposing to pay for this defense increase, how do we pay for the infrastructure plan?”

Zanona suggests that the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, "set up by the Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus package, could be on the chopping block."

Since then, the competitive program has distributed $5.1 billion to more than 400 projects across the country, according to the latest estimate from the Department of Transportation (DOT). [See tag: Tiger Grants].

“Since the loss of earmarks, this is one of the only programs that allows local and country governments to directly access federal funds,” Beth Osborne, senior policy adviser for Transportation for America, said at a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Another is the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grants. "The FASTLANE program was established in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act to fund critical freight and highway projects across the country," according to D.O.T.

Where's Transportation Secretary Chao?

Chao expressed support for TIGER grants and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program during her confirmation hearing.

But if Trump’s budget hews closely to a blueprint published by the conservative Heritage Foundation, as The Hill reported last month, it could entirely eliminate the annual $510 million TIGER program.

Also dependent on Trump's budget is the fate of the Caltrain commuter rail electrification project after Chao deferred approving a $647 grant, the topic of a March 13 New York Times editorial.

The alternative to elimination of the TIGER program, also pessimistic, is that it would be "slashed," stated Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) at a March 8 meeting of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, which she chairs.

“If they cut TIGER grants, I don’t know where that gets them,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “It would seem to be contradictory” to the administration's infrastructure pledge.

Hat tip to Stephen Lee DavisTransportation for America.

Full Story:
Published on Sunday, March 12, 2017 in The Hill
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