Woodall Amendment hurts biking and walking funding
Last week, the House of Representatives voted on a 2018 budget. As part of that debate, the House voted to include the Woodall Amendment which allows state Departments of Transportation to take back the funding allocations Congress appropriated to local governments, and to give back funding meant for small projects like biking and walking infrastructure.
The next section explains the issue, but keep reading below for what you can do to help!
To understand what the Woodall Amendment does, you need to first understand rescissions.
Periodically, Congress rescinds, or cancels, unspent transportation funds from State DOTs. Rescissions are essentially a bookkeeping measure, which allows the USDOT to take long unspent funds off the books. However, some state DOTs have turned them into an opportunity to gut neglected bicycle and pedestrian funding and those that benefit local governments.
Traditionally, Congress also puts some rules on rescissions. For instance, Congress has exempted funds that are sub-allocated to Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). These funds go directly to MPOs for planning and implementing transportation projects in their region. These funds were exempted because if the MPO does not know how much funding they have, or if that funding can be pulled back, it is hard for them to plan and build effectively and efficiently.
The base bill also requires proportionality across programs based on unspent balances in those programs. This means that the state must rescind the same percentage of unobligated funds across all funds, and that state’s cannot just gut certain programs. In past years, when rescissions were not proportional we saw states rescind higher percentages from programs that benefit local governments and support biking and walking such as transportation enhancements (now called transportation alternatives), Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds and metropolitan planning.
The Woodall Amendment
The 2018 budget includes rescissions for transportation dollars. The Woodall Amendment strikes the exemption for sub-allocated funds AND strikes the proportionality clause.
This would allow a state to take all their rescissions from MPO funds, or to completely wipe out funding for transportation alternatives, or CMAQ or something like that.
What can you do?
While the amendment passed the House, it is not law yet. The Senate still needs to pass their version of the budget, and then House and Senate budget leaders will need to find a compromise bill.
That means we still have a chance to push back.
The Woodall Amendment was one of 225 votes House members took on this budget bill, and Transportation votes were among the first. So many members and their staff did not focus on this one. That means we still want to reach out to House members on this. They can weigh in with transportation budget leaders who will lead negotiations with the Senate.
House members will be home in their district NEXT week. This is a great time to visit or call their district office and let them know:
- The Woodall Amendment hurts local communities like ours. The Woodall Amendment strips local control, making it impossible for local governments to plan and implement around our local transportation priorities.
- A number of local government associations oppose this, including:
- National League of Cities
- National Association of Counties
- National Association of Development Organizations (which represents rural areas),
- US Conference of Mayors,
- Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations,
- National Association of Regional Councils (smaller metro regions),
- The Woodall Amendment contradicts the 2015 FAST Act. In the FAST Act, the 2015 transportation bill, Congress specifically gave local governments control over a small amount to transportation funding to help meet local priorities. The Woodall Amendment negates this.
- The Woodall Amendment is unfair. It allows states to use local funding to pay rescissions. Wouldn’t we all rather pay our rent or mortgage with someone else’s money?
- Our community deserves to plan for our own priorities. [Mention local transportation priorities] Without certainty that our region will have transportation dollars, projects like these may not happen.
- Please don’t let the Woodall Amendment move forward. Please talk to Appropriators (budget leaders) and ask them not to include the Woodall Amendment in the final budget bill.
How to reach your Representative:
If you don’t know who your Representative is, click here and type in your zip code.
If you know who your Representative is, go to their website and search for their district office and give them a call!