Democrats propose mandatory grant funding

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WASHINGTON — Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are laying down an early marker for the upcoming debates on transportation infrastructure by proposing hard dollar amounts they'd like to see spent. In remarks in the Jan. 8 Congressional Record, U.S. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fla., announced he would be introducing the Build America Act of 2018 in the near future.

Hasting said the bill would allocate $9 billion annually for the Federal Transit Administration's Capital Investment Grant program and $3 billion for the Department of Transportation's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program. Both programs would be mandatory and separate from the annual appropriations process. A bill itself has not yet been filed.

Last year President Donald Trump's administration proposed to eliminate the TIGER grant program, but the budget bill Congress passed last September included $500 million for TIGER grants through 2020. The 2018 federal budget allocated $1.2 billion investment grant projects already under way, but nothing for new projects.

“By increasing these funding levels and removing the programs from the annual appropriations process, we will take the guesswork and uncertainty out of the programs,” Hastings said.

News reports indicate the administration is considering a $1 trillion infrastructure program that relies on leveraging private investment. Hastings called his proposal a smaller-scale “common sense expansion of successful programs based on need and merit.”
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