On February 14th, President Obama released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2012 putting forward an ambitious plan to grow communities of opportunity—places where all Americans can participate and prosper. By supporting innovation, transportation, clean energy infrastructure, education, and much more, the budget sets out a policy framework for a stronger America.
The budget also emphasizes results and reform—setting the bar high for all departments and agencies to make their programs more effective and aligned around the goal of making the country more economically competitive and socially inclusive.
At the same time, the president’s budget takes an important step toward addressing the nation’s long-term fiscal challenge—cutting the deficit enough to stabilize the debt as a share of the economy for most of this decade.
The administration’s budget proposal includes some truly difficult choices, including an array of deep cuts to important community-serving programs (e.g., a 50 percent cut in the Community Services Block Grant and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Programs, and a 7.5 percent cut to the Community Development Block Grant Program).
To inform the 2012 budget debate, this document examines primarily two broad arenas—infrastructure investments to grow the economy and connect people to opportunity, and programs that build healthy, stable neighborhoods. These are both critical components in promoting communities rich with opportunity that enable everyone to thrive. We hope that this document will inform the decision-making process of policymakers and fuel the advocacy efforts of those committed to improving the life prospects for our nation‟s struggling communities.
Grow the Economy and Link People to Jobs through Infrastructure Investment
As the nation emerges from the worst recession in generations, the president‟s FY 2012 budget request includes a number of critical infrastructure investments to keep our nation on the path to economic recovery. If enacted, these proposed infrastructure investments—from the surface transportation system, to clean energy, to a pipeline of training for workers—would create jobs in the shorter-term while continuing to lay a foundation for longer-term growth and competitiveness. It is critical to advocate for these investments and ensure that implementation of these resources happen in a way that is equitable and expands opportunity for all.
The president;s budget request includes proposed funding for transportation programs in FY 2012, as well as a historic framework for a new six-year transportation authorization proposal.4 The proposal front-loads an additional $50 billion in new transportation investments in FY 2012 as part of a six-year total package of $556 billion. Adjusted for inflation, this investment represents an increase of about $35 billion per year, or a 60 percent average per year increase, compared to the previous six-year authorization period. A few highlights include:
- $119 billion for transit programs over six years, more than doubling the commit-ment to transit in the prior reauthorization for both existing capacity and capacity expansion.
- $53 billion to fund the development of high-speed rail and other passenger rail programs over six years as part of an integrated national transportation strategy.
- $32 billion in Transportation Leadership Awards over six years to create incentives for states and localities to adopt critical reforms in a variety of areas, including safety and livable communities.
- $30 billion to establish a National Infrastructure Bank over six years that would provide loans and grants to support individual projects and broader activities of significance to our Nation’s transportation system and economic competitiveness.
As equally exciting is the president’s focus on reforming how federal transportation dollars are spent so that they are directed to the most effective programs and projects. For example, the president proposes to establish a new “fix-it-first” approach that emphasizes the importance of preserving and improving existing assets and also proposes to consolidate over 55 highway programs into five streamlined ones.
The president’s FY 2012 budget proposes to sustain robust support for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities—an interagency collaboration between HUD, DOT, and EPA that is one of the pillars of the administration’s place-based agenda, an effort to bring coordinated and focused resources to improve communities across the country.
For instance, the budget request includes $150 million for the HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative which is focused on creating incentives for communities to develop comprehensive housing and transportation plans that result in sustainable development, greenhouse gas emissions, and increased housing near transit. The FY 2010 budget included $150 million in planning grants that were distributed to 45 communities in 29 regions with planning efforts already underway.
The FY 2012 budget request also proposes to establish a new livability program at the Department of Transportation—with $4.1 billion in funding for 2012 and $28 billion over six years—for multimodal transportation hubs (where different forms of transportation converge) and streets that accommodate pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access.
The budget also includes $9.9 million for the EPA to more fully implement the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and increases technical assistance provided to tribal, state, regional, and local governments in integrating smart growth.
“PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity by Lifting Up What Works.® PolicyLink work is guided by the belief that those closest to the nation’s challenges are central to the search for solutions. With local and national partners, PolicyLink is spotlighting promising practices, supporting advocacy campaigns, and helping to bridge the traditional divide between local communities and policymaking at the local, regional, state, and national levels.”