WATCH Carbajal to Mulvaney: Don’t Cut TIGER Grants

Requested Highway 101 and 46 Project Funding on the Chopping Block in Trump Budget

Today, Rep. Salud Carbajal (CA-24), member of the House Budget Committee, questioned Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney on the White House Budget’s elimination of funds for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants.

“Upgrading our transportation infrastructure is especially vital to economic growth on the Central Coast, but the President's proposed budget eliminates funding for TIGER grants,” said Carbajal. “Releasing an infrastructure plan that is supposed to fix our ‘crumbling infrastructure’ alongside a budget that makes funding infrastructure development more difficult, fails to meet the needs of our communities. This is especially true for the Central Coast, which relies on a few critical highways to connect our communities with the rest of the state.” 

Director Mulvaney incorrectly stated during the hearing that for the $48.1 billion in funding for infrastructure included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA)—the largest public works project since the Eisenhower Interstate System—“no additional roads actually got built.”

In reality, the ARRA infrastructure funding improved more than 42,000 miles of roads and almost 2,700 bridges; paid for 850 new transit facilities, nearly 12,000 new buses, and nearly 700 new rail cars; and repaired about 800 airport facilities according to a recent Department of Transportation (DOT) report. The Central Coast directly benefitted from ARRA funding for transportation infrastructure projects which was provided to states and then distributed to local governments and Metropolitan Planning Organizations like SBCAG and SLOCOG. Additionally, the Santa Maria Levee Improvement project was completed after receiving $40 million in ARRA funds.

Last October, Carbajal wrote to the DOT in support of Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County’s bids for TIGER grants, which would help fund the Highway 101 widening and much-needed improvements to Highway 46. These routes serve as a critical resource for the economy by facilitating tourism and the transportation of Central Coast agriculture. When access to the Central Coast through Highway 101 was disrupted by the Montecito Mudslides, Highway 46 served as a critical alternative route for goods and services to local communities.

Read the Congressman’s full remarks below or watch HERE:

Rep. Salud Carbajal: This budget pretends to make infrastructure a priority by highlighting the President’s $200 billion infrastructure proposal with one hand, while taking away infrastructure funding with the other hand.  The budget assumes a $122 billion cut in highway programs, after the expiration of the current highway bill. It also cuts discretionary transportation accounts, including reductions in Amtrak, and the elimination of TIGER grants and cuts that capital investment grants programs.

Director Mulvaney, could you please explain to me how the budget incorporates the President’s new $200 billion infrastructure proposal. Will the infrastructure plan actually lead to a net increase in a federal investment in transportation infrastructure?

Director Mick Mulvaney: I’m discouraged to reference Mr. Schumer's numbers because they are flat out wrong. Which is unfortunate he has chosen to demagogue the issue but if you look at Mr. Schumer's numbers what he’s assuming is a $122 billion cut because of the highway trust fund, the highway trust fund is $122 billion short we all know it and unless y’all make a separate appropriations for that money the money will not get spent anyways. So it’s one of those classics examples, Mr. Carbajal, where we compare something to a baseline that everybody knows is not right is the one of the ways that Washington counts that is different from the way the rest of the world counts. He takes I think into consideration the reduction of the CDBG program which might be infrastructure and might not. So really is demagoguing an issue instead of talking about ways to actually pass an infrastructure bill that work. My concern is Mr. Schumer is heavily invested in simply seeing the president fail as oppose to talking about the issues that are important to people back home.

Carbajal: Mr. Mulvaney help me understand. If the TIGER grants go away, this is a priority of mine, both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties in my district have applied for TIGER grants to widen the U.S. 101 Corridor, which is a critical link for the regional movement of goods and to widen Highway 46 another critical economic connector. Which recently served as an alternative route when the disaster hit and mud slides shut down the 101.

Without TIGER grants, where do you suggest communities like mine pursue funds for this type of infrastructure?

Mulvaney: Through the new infrastructure program that we are proposing. If TIGER grants were the answer, Mr. Carbajal, we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place. It’s just throwing money at the problem. If it was the answer the stimulus 10 years ago would have solved the problem. Clearly we have been doing in the past, which includes TIGER grants, doesn’t work. It is one of the reasons we have the crumbling infrastructure that we have. I give tremendous credit to the president for new ideas on how to fix the problem because again if we simply do the same thing we’ve always done we’re going to get the same results we’ve already got.

Carbajal: Mr. Mulvaney, but we’re actually inverting the formula that the federal government as always used to help local communities. That is, they used to provide 80% of funding and allow communities to come up with 20%. Now we’re saying you come up with the 80% and we’ll come up with only 20% how is that helping?

Mulvaney: Because we also found that when we increase federal spending on infrastructure, as we did during the Obama stimulus, all it did was displace state funding. No additional roads actually got built. What happened was states took money they were going to spend on building roads and bridges and moved it to other priorities and the federal funding displaced that so that nothing additional got built.  

Carbajal: Well, we’ll agree to disagree on how that impacted local communities. I was in local government and I will tell you we saw the benefits of those investments, which is not the case with what’s being proposed.



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