Senate OKs FY2020 Transportation Funding

The U.S. Senate approved an amendment this week that blocked a 12 percent cut to transit agencies in fiscal year 2020.

The action came as the Senate also approved an appropriations bill that included funding for transportation programs including an increase in Amtrak funding.

The public transit cut would have amounted to $1.2 billion had it not been blocked.

Senator Martha McSally (R-Arizona), who sponsored the amendment to block the transit cuts with Doug Jones (D-Alabama), said the public transportation funding cuts would have been devastating to communities had they been adopted.

“These cuts could result in drastically reduced services, including those for low-income individuals and individuals with disabilities, and reduce funds necessary to modernize bus and rail fleets as well as slow construction of new stations and shelters,” she said during debate.

The spending bill funds transportation, housing and urban development, and related agencies.

The appropriations levels are similar to those adopted earlier by the House and the differences will now be need to be hammered out in a conference committee.

Because that process also involves reaching agreement on general spending figures for the budget as a whole, the reconciliation process may not be completed before the Nov. 21 expiration of a continuing resolution that is funding the federal government in FY2020.

Some congressional observers say Congress may need to adopt another continuing resolution in order to avoid a government shutdown.

In a related development, Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) acknowledged his committee has made no headway toward reaching an agreement on how to pay for increased spending outlined in the next generation of the federal surface transportation programs.

“There’s nothing new since we came back in September,” he told reporters in response to a question about funding a five year, $287 billion highway reauthorization proposal passed in August.

The Senate has yet to consider any proposals for mass transit or intercity rail funding.

Grassley said he has been unable to arrange a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to discuss the eventual size and pay-fors for a financing title.

Passage of the reauthorization bills may slide into 2020 or beyond.

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