Government Affairs Update
This is the fourth monthly edition of our ASCE Philadelphia Chapter’s Government Relations Report. This month, ASCE is focused on:
The proposed $30 billion Amtrak Gateway project continued to be the main engineering story in the news in early March. First Transportation Secretary Chao stated in testimony to Congress that an agreed-upon funding formula for the project (which the Obama administration had agreed to) was not under consideration anymore. The formula would have split the project funding roughly 50/50 between federal and state.
As a follow-up, as Federal budget talks continued, President Trump threatened to veto any bill that included funding for the project. New Jersey and New York governors, senators and representatives from both parties were up in arms against the threat, including US Rep Frelinghausen (R-NJ) and US Rep King (R-NY). The funding bill must pass before March 23rd to prevent another government shutdown.
Most political observers see the administration’s statements as hardball negotiation tactics, intended to either make the two states pay more and/or have Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) acquiesce to funding for a border wall and other administration proposals.
In the meantime, since the announcement of only vague grand plans for infrastructure funding in February by Sec. Chao, no one from the administration, the US House or the US Senate has yet come up with any viable, realistic funding sources for the future transportation bill reauthorization. In fact, most now think it unlikely that any solutions will come forth in this midterm election year, especially since Congress will first also have to reauthorize the water resources and FAA reauthorizations.
Most impartial observers regret that the Gateway project and transportation funding have become political footballs.
Following up on our coverage these past two months, the 2018/2019 budget discussions in Harrisburg have started. More on this next time.
Here in Philadelphia, two pieces of big news this week:
- First Mayor Kenney released proposals to raise taxes (approximately 6% on real estate), to raise funds to partially close what is expected to be a nearly $1 billion shortfall in school funding for the district. If approved, the plan would eliminate the school district’s deficit by 2024.
- And then, good news: the USDOT and Senators Casey and Toomey announced that the City had been awarded $12 Million from the TIGER program to complete the last bridge and boardwalk on the Schuylkill River Trail south of Center City. Congrats to the City and to the Schuylkill River Development Corporation!
ASCE will continue to monitor activity at the state and federal level that might impact our profession, the projects we work on, and the communities where we live. Please let us know which topics we should consider for next month’s meeting, by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.