It seems that Congress and the Administration have a deal to fund Federal agencies and programs for the balance of the current Fiscal Year, which will end on September 30. The $1.3 trillion Omnibus Appropriations Bill has cleared the House and the Senate. The Administration had previously agreed to it, as well.
While it will take a while to analyze all the spending in the Omnibus, broadly speaking, the bill will increase defense spending by $78 billion and domestic spending by $52 billion. Among the specifics, $380 million will be channeled through the Federal Election Assistance Commission, to be distributed as grants to state governments for enhanced electoral cyber-security measures to help protect the integrity of future votes. Likewise, the FBI will receive $300 million for counter-intelligence work designed to thwart ballot-related hacking.
Of particular importance to our State, the Omnibus includes $540 million that could be used to advance the Gateway project. The Governors of New Jersey and New York have agreed to provide half of the funding needed to build this vital project, contingent on the Federal Government’s promise to fund the balance. The cost of building two new tunnels to connect rail traffic between the two States is $13 billion. The total costs of a complete Gateway Project would be $30 billion. The inclusion of the $540 million in the pending legislation does not guarantee that it would go towards the Federal share, but it makes that a possibility.
A preliminary analysis by our colleagues at the National League of Cities (NLC) notes that the bill maintains or increases funding for key programs that municipalities use to fund infrastructure, economic development, and public safety, among others. The bill comes after more than 1,000 local leaders, including Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, lobbied Congress over the past year to save Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), TIGER grants, workforce development and education programs, and energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
The bill also includes additional funding for water infrastructure through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including for lead testing and lead reduction in schools, which has been an NLC priority. Further, the bill will reauthorize the Brownfields Redevelopment Program, expand Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to make up for losses in affordable housing stemming from tax reform, and extend the National Flood Insurance Program until July 31, 2018.
For specific funding level changes, please click here. Selected provisions of the bill include:
CDBG: First meaningful increase since 2010, from $3 billion to $3.3 billion
Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER): Increased by $1 billion
Airport Discretionary Grants Targeting Small and Rural Airports: Increased by $1 billion
Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds: Increased by $300 million each
Transit Infrastructure Grants: Increased by $834 million (including $400 million to help communities modernize their bus systems and $400 million for capital assistance to transit systems)
Rural Broadband Infrastructure: $600 million in new funds
State and Local Law Enforcement Grants: Increased by $1.2 billion for a total of $2.9 billion in 2018. This includes a total of $446.5 million, an increase of $299.5 million more than fiscal year 2017, in DOJ grant funding to help State and local communities respond to the opioid crisis.
State Opioid Response Grants: $1 billion in new funding for grants to states to address the opioid crisis (this funding is in addition to the $500 million provided in the 21st Century Cures Act).
National Pre-disaster Mitigation Fund: Pre-disaster mitigation funding increased from $149 million to $249 million to build infrastructure that prevents loss of life and mitigates risks, reduces damage from future disasters, and lowers flood insurance premiums.
HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Vouchers: Increase funding of $40 million for new vouchers, while also protecting VA resources providing case management for homeless veterans.
We are grateful to the entire New Jersey Congressional delegation for their support for this provision. And special thanks go to Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, who is Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, for his key advocacy.
Contact: Jon Moran, Senior Legislative Analyst, email@example.com, 609-695-3481, ext. 121.