Capitol Hill: The budget battle begins

| 2/9/2005

President Bush has sent a $2.57 trillion budget for ’06 to Congress and how those numbers are being received is the hot news on Capitol Hill this week. It is expected that Congress will spend months debating the budget proposals, which seek to make deep cuts to domestic spending.

During the first U.S. Cabinet meeting of 2005, the president mainly discussed the issue of the budget, calling it a “budget that sets priorities.” He said those priorities were “winning the war on terror, protecting our homeland, growing our economy.”

Bush described it as a “lean” budget that focuses on results.

“Taxpayers in America don’t want us spending their money on something that’s not achieving results,” he said.

News sources report that the 2,428-page, 4-inch-high stack of budget books sent to Congress on Feb. 7 did not include numbers on Iraq and Social Security. Newsday reported that the administration said not enough was known about future needs in Iraq or the ultimate shape of Bush’s Social Security proposal to come up with realistic budget estimates.

What about transportation dollars?
The Transportation Department’s fiscal 2006 budget authority would decline 3.3 percent to $58.8 billion under President Bush’s budget, reports the Congressional Quarterly, but it includes support for a $284 billion, six-year surface transportation bill that some lawmakers and transportation industry advocates say represents significant movement by the White House.

Last year, the Bush administration offered up a $256 billion six-year highway funding bill. Other lawmakers insisted the government needed more to pay for highway construction, public transportation and road safety programs. When the 108th Congress adjourned last year, no compromise had been reached.

Notably, reports CQ, the administration for the first time has publicly embraced a key part of the compromise, which calls for $284 billion in both budget authority and outlays. A bill based on those numbers is expected to be introduced Wednesday in the House of Representatives by Rep. Don Young, R-AK. Young is the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman.

Big transportation news resulting from the president’s budget request includes cutting off funding for Amtrak and continuing to use the Highway Trust Fund for funding more of mass transit related programs and leaving less in the money pool overall for highway specific programs. According to an article in Transportation Weekly, the budget proposes total spending on Federal Transit Administration programs of $7.781 billion in FY 2006. However, the Highway Trust Fund’s share of that spending would increase – the budget proposes that the HTF pick up 87.7 percent of FTA spending next year, up from the traditional 80 percent.

– By Land Line and OOIDA staff