Was the “$20 Billion for Infrastructure” Promise in the 2018 Budget Deal Kept?

Was the “$20 Billion for Infrastructure” Promise in the 2018 Budget Deal Kept?

February 20, 2019  | Jeff Davis

February 20, 2019

The February 2018 bipartisan budget deal between Congress and President Trump increased the discretionary spending caps of the Budget Control Act by an astounding $295 billion spread over the two fiscal years of 2018 and 2019 – an average annual increase of $82.4 billion for defense spending and $65.0 billion for non-defense spending.

As part of that deal, the bipartisan Congressional leadership produced a sort of “deal memo” between themselves (printed here) promised that at least $20.9 billion per year of the $65 billion per year non-defense cap increase would be dedicated to a specific list of programs, including: “Infrastructure – $10 billion for FY18 and $10 billion for FY19 – to invest in infrastructure, including programs related to rural water and wastewater, clean and safe drinking water, rural broadband, energy, innovative capital projects, and surface transportation.”

Now that the final regular FY 2019 appropriations bills have been signed into law, we can ask – was this $10 billion per year infrastructure promise kept?

The answer – probably, but just barely in 2019.

The terms of the deal memo were specific – the $10 billion per year was to be discretionary budget authority, above the fiscal year 2019 enacted levels. And the $2 billion per year for Veterans Affairs facility infrastructure would not count towards the $10 billion per year (the VA money was a separate line-item in the memo).

Obviously, the definition of “infrastructure” is imprecise. But using the accounts covered in the epic Congressional Budget Office report on transportation and water infrastructure spending from 1956-2017, plus the HUD and EDA community development grant programs, plus broadband (as mentioned in the deal memo), we were able to identify $10.9 billion in spending increases in the fiscal year 2018 bills.

But a lot of appropriations subcommittees shifted priorities away from these infrastructure programs in the 2019 bills, causing the total to fall to $9.8 billion in 2019. The two-year total is $20.5 billion.

There are probably some accounts that we are missing, even if you confine things to transportation and water infrastructure (it’s a big budget). And we don’t know how electricity infrastructure programs are structured (we think it is mostly loans rather than grants). And while federal buildings are usually considered infrastructure, the GSA Federal Buildings Fund has lately functioned in such a way that it really doesn’t count towards the spending cap.

Our table showing all the major accounts that we think of as “infrastructure” is below, along with their discretionary appropriations in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The $10 Billion per Year Infrastructure Promise

The February 2018 budget deal included a Congressional leadership “deal memo” promising that at least $10 billion per year of the discretionary spending increase (over FY 2017)  would be spent on infrastructure programs (broadly defined). Using the budget accounts we could identify as infrastructure, here is how the FY 2018 omnibus and the FY 2019 House bills compare to FY 2017.
FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 More/Less than FY 2017
Millions of dollars. Disc. BA Disc. BA Disc. BA FY 2018 FY 2018 2-Year
Agriculture Department
Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program 581 1,060 624 +479 +43 +522
Broadband Loan and Grant Pilot Program 66 667 195 +601 +129 +731
Commerce Department
Economic Development Admin – Programs 237 263 265 +26 +28 +54
Defense Department
Army Corps of Engineers
Investigations 121 123 125 +2 +4 +6
Construction 1,862 2,085 2,183 +223 +321 +544
Operation and Maintenance 3,137 3,630 3,740 +493 +603 +1,096
Mississippi River System 345 425 368 +80 +23 +103
Environmental Protection Agency
State and Tribal Assistance Grants
Clean  Water Act State Revolving Funds 1,394 1,694 1,694 +300 +300 +600
Safe Drinking Water Act State Revolving Funds 863 1,163 1,184 +300 +321 +621
Other Infrastructure Programs
WIFIA Program 10 63 68 +53 +58 +111
Homeland Security Department
U.S. Coast Guard
Procurement, Construction & Improvements 1,370 2,695 2,229 +1,325 +859 +2,184
Housing and Urban Development Department
Community Planning and Development
Community Development Fund 3,060 3,365 3,365 +305 +305 +610
Interior Department
Bureau of Reclamation
Water and Related Resources 1,156 1,332 1,392 +176 +236 +412
Transportation Department
Office of the Secretary
TIGER/BUILD Grants 500 1,500 900 +1,000 +400 +1,400
Federal Aviation Administration
Facilities and Equipment 2,855 3,250 3,000 +395 +145 +540
Airport Improvement Program 0 1,000 500 +1,000 +500 +1,500
Federal Highway Administration
Federal-Aid Highways 0 2,525 3,250 +2,525 +3,250 +5,775
Federal Railroad Administration
Amtrak – Northeast Corridor 328 650 650 +322 +322 +644
Amtrak – National Network 1,167 1,292 1,292 +125 +125 +249
Magnetic Levitation Technology 0 0 10 +0 +10 +10
Consolidated Rail Infra/Safety Grants 68 595 255 +527 +187 +714
Federal-State SOGR Partnership Grants 25 250 400 +225 +375 +600
Rail Restoration/Enhancement Grants 5 20 5 +15 +0 +15
Federal Transit Administration
Transit Formula Grants 0 834 700 +834 +700 +1,534
Capital Investment Grants 2,413 2,645 2,553 +232 +140 +372
Maritime Administration
Replace Training Vessels at State Academies 0 300 300 +300 +300 +600
Port Infrastructure Grant Program 0 0 293 +0 +293 +293
TOTAL, ABOVE INFRASTRUCTURE ACCOUNTS 20,679 31,435 30,454 +10,756 +9,775 +20,532
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