2015 Budget Request Ups Investments in Some Key Landscape Architecture Interests
President Barack Obama released his fiscal year 2015 budget request to Congress on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. In its current form, the request proposes to significantly boost funding for several programs that landscape architects access within the Department of Interior and Department of Transportation programs.
The president’s budget proposes to give the National Park Service (NPS) an infusion of $1.2 billion over three years to upgrade crumbling infrastructure at some of the nation’s iconic landmarks in anticipation of its Centennial in 2016. The funding, along with an extra $30 million next year in regular appropriations for park operations, would boost overall Interior Department discretionary spending by 2.4 percent, to $11.9 billion. The Interior Department has been grappling with a National Park Service maintenance backlog that ballooned to an estimated $11.5 billion in 2012, from $8 billion in 2007. The Park Service has stated that it would have to spend $700 million a year just to keep pace with the deferred projects.
Similar to last year’s request, the President recommends full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million. However, last year House Republicans rejected the proposal and instead recommended zeroing out funding for the program. ASLA and allied organizations successfully worked with Congress to have LWCF funding restored to $235 million ($187 million for federal land acquisition and $48 million for state grants) for 2014.
And, once again, the President is proposing to resurrect the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery (UPARR) program with a request of $25 million. UPARR funding would provide assistance to urban localities for rehabilitation of critically needed recreation facilities and encourage systematic local planning and commitment to continuing operation and maintenance of recreation programs, sites, and facilities.
The Administration also requests $1.64 billion for the U.S. Forest Service’s National Forest System and $68.5 million for the Bureau of Land Management’s land management program.
Department of Transportation Programs
President Obama’s transportation request proposes to more than double the funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants by asking for $1.25 billion. Currently, issuing its sixth round of grants, TIGER is one of the most popular programs with local communities. The proposal also ask for $2.3 billion for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), and $2.5 billion for the new Capital Investment Grants Program, which replaces the New Starts and Small Starts programs.
Under the president’s budget, the Surface Transportation Program would receive $10.3 billion, with the Transportation Alternatives Program receiving $836 million. A Transit-Oriented Development Pilot Program would receive $10.2 million.
Notably, the budget requests would also create a new Interagency Infrastructure Permitting Improvement Center to be located within the Office of the Secretary. The center will develop and implement reforms for
permitting and review of major infrastructure projects and develop and deploy information technology tools to improve the transparency and accountability of the permitting process. Finally, the proposed surface transportation program would change the name of the Highway Trust Fund to “Transportation Trust Fund” and create two new accounts – Rail and Multimodal – in addition to the Highway and Mass Transit Accounts.
Housing and Urban Development: Under the proposal, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program would receive a cut from the fiscal 2014 enacted level of $3 billion with a request of $2.8 billion for the program.
Environmental Protection Agency: The Obama administration’s $7.9 billion request for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would cut the agency’s total funding by $300 million from the enacted fiscal 2014 level of $8.2 billion. Under the proposal, the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds would get $1.8 billion, a cut of $581 million from the enacted 2014 level.
General Services Administration: The General Services Administration (GSA) would receive $40 million for a new special emphasis program, Energy and Water Retrofit Conservation Measure, which would use low impact development techniques and resources to help GSA buildings and sites conserve energy and water.
ASLA will continue to monitor the budget process as it moves through Congress and weigh in on programs critical to the landscape architecture profession. Visit asla.org/advocacy for more information.