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Manchin-Schumer Deal: What Is In It

We have a deal?

Last night, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced they had a deal on a climate, health care and deficit reduction bill, which could pass as part of a reconciliation bill. That means it would need all of the Senate Democrats and almost every single House Democrat to vote for it. The Inflation Reduction Act, the legislative title of the deal, represents a scaled back version of the Build Back Better Act which has been promoted by the Biden Administration. 

How solid is it?

It is not a done deal yet. To pass, the bill will need almost all the Democrats in the House and every Democrat in the Senate to vote for it (and we haven’t heard either way from Sen. Sinema). Still, this is more than just a statement of intent, there is actual legislative language which means the agreement between Manchin and Schumer isn’t just a general outline. They have nailed down specifics. 

Provisions for better bicycling and walking?

Yes, and no.

We did not get the e-bike tax rebate provision or the bicycle commuter benefit (more on that in a subsequent blog) but we did get a great new infrastructure program originally designed by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee under Chairman Peter DeFazio’s leadership, the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants (pages 699-710 of the bill language) program.

Here are some highlights from the Inflation Reduction Act:

$1.893 billion: Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants for states, local, regional and tribal governments (and NGOs in agreements with those local governments)

  • Projects that improve walkability, safety, and affordable transportation access such as projects that retrofit roads to be complete streets, slow speeds, and/or that build complete networks for active transportation, and create low-cost transportation to essential destinations. 
  • Projects that remove, remediate, or cap projects that divide communities; or projects that mitigate effects such as urban heat islands, flooding, air and noise pollution, and projects that improve safety of Vulnerable Road Users.
  • Planning and capacity building activities in disadvantaged or underserved communities, including identifying and monitoring air and noise pollution, flooding and excessive heat, including greenhouse gas emissions; and projects to assess transportation equity, pollution impacts, the development of anti-displacement policies and community benefit. 

$1.1 billion: Investment in Economically Disadvantaged Communities. This provides grants for the same types of activities as the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants but is specifically for communities that are economically underserved, enter into a community benefits agreement, have a displacement policy, and have a local hiring plan. These grants can be 80-100% federally funded. 

$42.2 million: Technical Assistance. This is to help communities apply for the above grants.

Other important Transportation Provisions in the agreement

$100 million for reviewing and facilitating the environmental review process. This is a mixed blessing, and something the environmental community may dislike. We would like to see the process work faster for small projects, but often the attention is in speeding up larger projects. 

$2 billion for incentives to use low-carbon construction materials. 

Incentives for electric cars, trucks and heavy vehicles. The bill does include tax incentives for buying electric cars, trucks and other light vehicles for the public. The new tax incentives do have an income cap ($150,000 for an individual) and a price cap on the cost of the vehicle ($55,000 for a car, and $80,000 for a light truck, SUV or van.)

The bill also includes funding for the post office to buy electric vehicles, incentives for communities buying fleets, including school buses, and incentives for clean(er) aviation fuels, ports, pipelines and maritime transportation. 

Although we are disappointed by the lack of bike and e-bike-related provisions in the tax section, we have to be relieved and gratified that Congress is on the precipice of passing a major piece of climate legislation. We should also be thrilled with the new Neighborhood access and equity program and the huge potential it represents. 

We’ll continue to work for those bike provisions, the e-bike and commuter benefits, as we move forward. (Coming soon to the blog: The Provisions that didn’t make it into the deal.)