This week, President Trump released his first budget request, which covers fiscal year 2018 and also looks out over the next 10 years (2018-2027). The proposal, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” calls for $1 trillion in total tax cuts over the next 10 years, while also cutting federal spending by $4.6 trillion over the same time period. The budget assumes the economy will grow by $2.1 trillion, which would reduce 10-year deficits by $5.6 trillion and balance the budget in FY 2027.
As with most budgets submitted by respective administrations, President Trump’s is largely seen as a messaging document that primes the budget and appropriations debate for the coming year. This year however, the budget carries a bit more relevance due in large part to the president’s promise to include $200 billion for his infrastructure initiative. The budget did provide a fact sheet detailing four key principles for the White House’s initiative but did not provide any details on a specific infrastructure plan.
In terms of federal construction accounts tracked by AGC, the budget is status quo with previous year’s appropriations and budget requests—approximately $120 billion. While the budget provides significant funding increases for border wall construction and a $5 billion dollar down payment on the administration’s infrastructure initiative, it also cuts TIGER grants, Capital Investment Grants for transit projects, rural water programs, and the Community Development Block Grant Program. Even more troubling, the budget assumes that funding for the Highway Trust Fund will be cut by $95 billion in 2021.
A full analysis of the FY 2018 budget for federal construction accounts can be found here.
Additional details on budget funding and policy issues—including the infrastructure initiative—can be found here.
For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at [email protected] or (202) 547-8892.
Enforcement Agencies See Similar Cuts
The fiscal year 2018 budget proposal shows new priorities for the Trump Administration, with the Federal Education and Training Programs taking the brunt of the proposed budget cuts. The Department of Labor’s budget (DOL) includes a 20 percent reduction in funding from the FY 2017 enacted level, and large job training reductions and employment service accounts represent some of the largest cuts. Funding for state grants for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) have received a 40 percent cut, and funding for apprenticeship grants have received a 5 percent reduction. WIOA overwhelmingly passed Congress in 2014, so it is unlikely that Congress will allow the proposed cuts.
The FY 2018 budget proposal also contains reductions within the Department of Education for accounts that fund career and technical education. The budget proposes a 15 percent reduction in funding despite the fact that Congress is working towards reforming and reauthorizing career and technical education.
Among the federal agencies within the DOL, funding levels are little changed. The Wage and Hour Division received a small increase for compliance assistance and outreach to employers, while the Office of Labor-Management Standards received one of the largest percentage increases—primarily to fund a program that audits larger international unions. Meanwhile, funding for the National Labor Relations Board has been decreased. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s funding has stayed relatively level, but the budget does call for the elimination of Susan Harwood Training Grants, a grant program that AGC has benefitted from and that has provided valuable safety training to thousands of industry workers.
The budget also proposes dramatic changes to the premium structure paid to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Ultimately, these large increases would have to be absorbed by contributing employers and would require congressional approval first. AGC will strongly oppose any such unilateral increases.
Interestingly, the budget proposal calls for the merging of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and the independent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. AGC is concerned by this merging of agencies, and it remains unlikely that Congress will approve of such a change.
Finally, among one of the more public proposals in the budget is a proposal to create a federal-state parental leave benefit program within the unemployment insurance program. Beginning in 2020, this program would provide six weeks of family leave to new parents. The proposal expands upon President Trump’s campaign promises, but like many others, the details of how such a program might work in practice have yet to be determined.
For more information, contact James Young at [email protected] or (202) 547-0133.
Mixed Bag for Infrastructure Accounts
on March 16, the Trump administration outlined its budget for fiscal year 2018, which calls for cuts to transportation, water and public housing infrastructure. However, the budget outline also calls for increased construction funding for the southern border wall and an unspecified amount for military construction to address “degraded facilities.” Notable policy initiatives include implementation of mandatory nationwide use of the E-Verify Program and a reduction of federal agency enforcement programs.
Specific highlights from the budget include:
- Decreases to federal support for job training and employment service formula grants amid a construction workforce shortage;
- Elimination of unspecified Occupational Safety and Health Administration training grants, which likely includes the Susan Harwood Safety Training grants that AGC has been a recipient of;
- Elimination of funding for the unauthorized TIGER discretionary grant program, approximately a $499 million cut under the existing FY 2017 government funding bill;
- Limited funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program (New Starts) to projects with existing full funding grant agreements only;
- Funding $900 million for the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects grant program, authorized by the FAST Act of 2015, which supports larger highway and multimodal freight projects with demonstrable national or regional benefits;
- Funding $2.3 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Water and Wastewater Infrastructure State Revolving Funds, a $4 million increase over the existing FY 2017 government funding bill;
- Providing $20 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program;
- Elimination of the Department of Agriculture’s nearly $500 million Water and Wastewater Loan and Grant Program, instead relying on the private sector or other federal investments in rural water infrastructure, such as the EPA’s State Revolving Funds;
- Elimination of $3 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program; and
- Reduction of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance by $129 million compared to the existing FY 2017 government funding bill.
As with most presidential budgets, this document serves mostly in an advisory capacity to Congress, and many of the cuts proposed by the White House will face hurdles there. It should be noted that this budget document is a broad layout for how the Trump administration would like to see federal funds allocated. A more detailed budget is expected to come out in May. Additionally, the administration asked for a separate Security Supplemental of $30 billion for 2017. AGC will continue to call for adequate infrastructure investment and sensible construction industry policies as Congress considers the president’s budget.
For more information, contact Jordan Howard at [email protected] or (703) 837-5368.