Pres­i­dent Trump’s

Many feared money for the tran­sit agency would be elim­i­nated al­to­gether


bud­get pro­posed to trim Metro’s fed­eral sub­sidy to $120 mil­lion, rather than end it as feared.

Metro got a lit­tle good news Mon­day when Pres­i­dent Trump’s bud­get pro­posed to trim the agency’s fed­eral sub­sidy to $120 mil­lion from $150 mil­lion rather than elim­i­nate it, as feared.

But the White House and the Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment also warned that they want to shrink fed­eral sup­port for Metro, at a time when the re­gion’s top elected of­fi­cials of both par­ties are seek­ing to in­crease such back­ing.

The of­fice of Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said ear­lier this month that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion planned to omit a crit­i­cal grant for the tran­sit agency from its bud­get for the 2019 fis­cal year.

It wasn’t clear Mon­day whether the White House had changed its mind, pos­si­bly un­der pres­sure from Congress, or whether Warner and oth­ers had mis­read or over­stated the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s in­ten­tions.

Ei­ther way, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion made clear it hopes the $30 mil­lion re­duc­tion is only the be­gin­ning of a de­cline in fed­eral spend­ing on Metro.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion does be­lieve that long-term, [the] fed­eral role needs to be less­ened, and re­duc­ing the fed­eral con­tri­bu­tion re­flects that,” an Of­fice of

Man­age­ment and Bud­get of­fi­cial said. “Fed­eral di­rect sub­si­dies and over­sight should be cur­tailed.”

A Trans­porta­tion spokes­woman said in a state­ment that “it makes sense for the De­part­ment to scale down” fund­ing for Metro. The state­ment cited “con­strained re­sources,” Metro’s ad­vances in fix­ing safety is­sues, and progress in the Dis­trict, Mary­land and Vir­ginia in rais­ing funds on their own.

Warner and other lo­cal of­fi­cials have been press­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion both to pro­vide full fed­eral fund­ing for Metro and to in­crease such sup­port. Two of the re­gion’s top Repub­li­can of­fi­cials — Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock ( Va.) and Mary­land Gov. Larry Hogan — have urged in­creased fed­eral fund­ing if Metro meets cer­tain con­di­tions.

Warner raised the alarm pre­vi­ously that the White House might scrap the Metro sub­sidy al­to­gether. He said the ad­min­is­tra­tion be­lieved the 10-year fed­eral grant pro­gram for Metro has ex­pired and cited a Fed­eral Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion brief­ing to Congress in the spring of 2017 that made that point.

OMB and the Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment ap­peared to dif­fer on that is­sue Mon­day. OMB said the au­tho­riza­tion ex­pires in 2019. Trans­porta­tion said it ex­pires in fis­cal 2018, but the White House pro­poses to con­tinue di­rect fund­ing at $120 mil­lion in fis­cal 2019 any­way.

Metro wel­comed Mon­day’s bud­get news and said it would work in Congress to re­verse the pro­posed $30 mil­lion cut. Any re­duc­tion in fund­ing would com­pli­cate Metro’s fi­nan­cial pic­ture at a time when the agency is push­ing for the fed­eral grant pro­gram to be re­newed to meet its con­sid­er­able cap­i­tal needs.

The grant money is used to pur­chase new rail cars, pay for track up­grades and re­place ag­ing equip­ment. The grant is part of the 2008 Pas­sen­ger Rail In­vest­ment and Im­prove­ment Act, known as PRIIA.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate the Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s recog­ni­tion of the im­por­tant safety and re­li­a­bil­ity in­vest­ments Metro re­quires, as well as this ac­knowl­edg­ment of the crit­i­cal role the sys­tem plays in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal,” a Metro spokes­woman said in a state­ment. “We will con­tinue to work with our con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion and lead­er­ship on the Hill to en­sure the full $150 mil­lion PRIIA fund­ing is in­cluded in the fed­eral FY19 ap­pro­pri­a­tions.”

Warner sought to claim some credit Mon­day for what he por­trayed as a re­ver­sal.

“Not long ago, the Ad­min­is­tra­tion was plan­ning to zero out fund­ing for [Metro] in its bud­get re­quest to Congress,” Warner said in a state­ment. “I, along with other mem­bers of the Cap­i­tal Re­gion del­e­ga­tion, pub­licly pushed the Ad­min­is­tra­tion to honor the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s ten-year com­mit­ment to Metro. We’ll keep up the fight in Congress to en­sure that Metro re­ceives the full $150 mil­lion in fed­eral funds that they are owed for the next fis­cal year.”

The FTA’s po­si­tion last spring that the 10-year Metro fund­ing pro­gram ex­pires this year was based on a tech­ni­cal­ity in the word­ing of the bill.

It ap­peared to leave open the pos­si­bil­ity that the au­tho­riza­tion ends in the cur­rent fis­cal year. But the FTA also said that Congress could ex­tend the au­tho­riza­tion to make sure Metro got the full allotment.

“Ev­ery in­di­ca­tion from the ad­min­is­tra­tion was that they were strongly con­sid­er­ing omit­ting the fund­ing from the bud­get re­quest,” Warner spokes­woman Rachel Co­hen said.

Com­stock, the only Repub­li­can in Congress who rep­re­sents a ju­ris­dic­tion in the im­me­di­ate Wash­ing­ton area, said she had not heard from any­one ex­cept Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) that the White House was con­sid­er­ing omit­ting the Metro grant.

“I’m not sure what hap­pened there,” Com­stock said. “As we have in the past, we’ll fight for the full $150 mil­lion.”

Warner is­sued the warn­ing about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plans at the same time that he, Kaine, and the two Demo­cratic sen­a­tors from Mary­land — Chris Van Hollen and Ben­jamin L. Cardin — wrote to OMB Di­rec­tor Mick Mul­vaney and Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Elaine Chao urg­ing con­tin­u­a­tion of the PRIIA funds.

The White House hopes the $30 mil­lion re­duc­tion is only the be­gin­ning of a de­cline in fed­eral spend­ing on Metro.

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