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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

White House threatens veto of House transportation funding bill


The White House yesterday threatened to veto a House version of a bill that would fund the departments of transportation, housing and urban development for fiscal-year 2016.

In a statement issued by the Office of Management and Budget, Obama administration officials outlined their objections to the H.R. 2577 bill, which they said would freeze or cut "critical investment" in transportation. Funding would be reduced to various surface transportation programs, as well as for Amtrak, rail safety, the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), according to the memo.

Specifically, the bill's provisions that the administration opposes include:
• cuts in surface transportation programs that would preclude new investments while freezing or reducing most major capital accounts below prior-year funding.
• a reduction in Amtrak grants by more than $1.3 billion below the president's FY2016 budget request and $250 million below last year's funding level. In addition, the bill would hold Federal Railroad Safety Administration's safety and operations account flat at FY2015 levels.
• a "dramatic" cut in funding for WMATA from the FY2016 budget request of $150 million, which is consistent with enacted appropriations for FY2015 and previous years, to $100 million.
• and cutting TIGER grant funding to a level that would be 80 percent below the lowest level since the program began in FY2009.

The administration also "strongly objects" to the bill's provisions that would prohibit the Surface Transportation Board from approving any subsequent phases of the California High-Speed Rail project, and that would allow the trucking industry to avoid truck-size-and-weight limits and prevent safety measures that address truck-driver fatigue.