Was the “$20 Billion for Infrastructure” Promise in the 2018 Budget Deal Kept?
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|
|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|
|Economic Development Admin – Programs||237||263||265||+26||+28||+54|
|Army Corps of Engineers|
|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|
|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|
|Bureau of Reclamation|
|Water and Related Resources||1,156||1,332||1,392||+176||+236||+412|
|Office of the Secretary|
|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 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|
|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|