House Democrat Seeks More Funding for Transportation Grants
A senior House Democrat is seeking support for legislation that would pump more money into the Transportation Department's popular TIGER grant program.
Maxine Waters of California has sent a letter to colleagues, trying to find cosponsors for a bill that would restore cuts to the grant program for infrastructure projects with national or regional significance, which funds road, bridge, transit and airport projects of regional and national interest.
"Passage of an emergency supplemental appropriation would provide funding for TIGER free from sequestration and without reducing funding for other domestic programs, and it would allow states, local governments, and transit agencies to begin immediately to plan projects and prepare grant applications, thus ensuring an efficient use of funds and timely job creation," Waters wrote in a "Dear colleague" letter sent Thursday.
Waters introduced a similar bill in the 112th Congress; it garnered support from 50 cosponsors, all Democrats. It called for a $1 billion infusion of funds for the TIGER program, $500 million each in fiscal 2013 and 2014, but the measure never made it out of committee.
Although TIGER has been popular with state and local transportation officials, House Republicans have been skeptical about giving the Transportation secretary long-term, broad latitude in dispensing large grants.
House appropriators last year proposed zeroing out the grant program, while Senate Democrats obliged the White House's request to fund the program at $500 million annually.
The program is currently funded at roughly that level, but no more grants are being offered right now, as the Transportation Department irons out how the next continuing resolution and the series of automatic spending cuts enacted last week will affect the agency's budget for the rest of fiscal 2013.
Meanwhile, appropriators in both chambers appear closer to reaching agreement on including a Transportation-Housing and Urban Development spending plan in the stopgap spending bill (HR 933). Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, the chairman of that Appropriations subcommittee, said one issue blocking a bicameral agreement is likely to be worked out.
"It was a prohibition on high-speed rail in California," Latham said. "There's no money for it anyway, so it's really kind of a moot point."
Kerry Young contributed to this story.