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Rescissions may affect Recreational Trails Program funding

See text of Federal Highway Administration "Notice of Rescission of Federal-aid Apportionments"

From the Coalition for Recreational Trails

"RTP funding will drop from the $70 million we had hoped for in FY06, but the amount of the drop will be not be clear for some time."

In August 2005, we celebrated a major victory for the Recreational Trail Program inclusion in the SAFETEA-LU legislation with a very healthy increase in funding. By year's end, the Congress had added some uncertainty to funding for the program, however along with uncertainty for all SAFETEA-LU programs. The action came through three "rescissions" Congressional actions which actually take back previously appropriated money. Rescissions are not new, but the 2005 actions prompted in large measure by 2005 hurricane damage in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are unusually large and threatening.

We wanted to share with you information on the rescissions and then ask your help in guiding the actions of the proponents of the Recreational Trails Program organized into the Coalition for Recreational Trails.

Congress took three separate actions in late 2005 which will or which have the potential to reduce RTP funding in FY 2006 the current year.

The first action was a flat 1% rescission of most federal spending during the year and that is very likely to result in a spending reduction of $700,000, 1% of this year's $70 million appropriation for RTP.

The second rescission came in the Transportation appropriations measure for FY06 in late November. It reduced SAFETEA-LU spending by $2 billion, out of about $40 billion in FY06 spending-- roughly 5%. But this reduction does not affect all SAFETEA-LU programs. The reduction in money is based upon funding provided under the following programs:

FY 2006 apportionments for the Interstate Maintenance (IM), National Highway System (NHS), Bridge, Surface Transportation Program (STP) and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) programs

The mandated spending cuts may be taken from these programs as well as (1) unobligated funding from prior years and (2) a variety of other programs, including RTP. It gives states discretion as to where the cuts are made the reductions do not have to be even on all of the affected programs. The Federal Highway Administration issued guidance to the states on this reduction on December 28, 2005. This means that your RTP funds could be exempted from cuts entirely or could be reduced very sharply. Every state is likely to react uniquely to this challenge.

The third rescission, of just over $1.1 billion in FY06 SAFETEA-LU spending roughly another 3%, was done in the Department of Defense appropriations bill which become law on December 30, 2005. This third rescission is structured similarly to the second rescission a reduction in allowed state spending, but giving the states discretion on how to allocate the cuts within each state.

The bottom line is this: RTP funding will drop from the $70 million we had hoped for in FY06, but the amount of the drop will be not be clear for some time. And the drop in RTP funding in every state is completely unknown at this time. If the RTP funds were reduced proportionate to the total rescission, and if states were forced to reduce spending from FY06 dollars only, we would lose about $5.5 million. But there are some key areas of jeopardy:

1) unobligated RTP funds from FY05 and prior;

2) states where DOT decision-makers favor traditional highway projects over programs like RTP.

Text of the Federal Highway Administration "Notice of Rescission of Federal-aid Apportionments" (N 4510.578) dated December 28, 2005:

1. What is the purpose of this Notice? This Notice is to notify the States that $1,999,999,000 of unobligated Federal-aid highway funds apportioned to States are hereby rescinded as required by the Department of Transportation Appropriations Act, 2006, Public Law (Pub. L. No.) 109-115.

2. What apportioned funds are being rescinded? In accordance with Division A of the Department of Transportation Appropriations Act, 2006, Pub. L. No. 109-115, under the heading, "(Rescission), (Highway Trust Fund)," an amount of $1,999,999,000 is rescinded from the unobligated balances of funds apportioned under chapter 1 of title 23, United States Code (U.S.C.). The rescission shall not apply to funds distributed in accordance with title 23, U.S.C., section 130(f), title 23, U.S.C., section 133(d)(1) as in effect prior to the date of enactment of Pub. L. No. 109-59, the first sentence of title 23, U.S.C., section 133(d)(3)(A), title 23, U.S.C., section 104(b)(5) or title 23, U.S.C., section 163 of as in effect prior to the enactment of Pub. L. No. 109-59.

3. How are apportioned funds being rescinded?

a. The rescission is being applied proportionately to States based upon the fiscal year (FY) 2006 apportionments to the States for the core apportioned programs excluding the Highway Safety Improvement Program. Table 1 shows each State's share of the total rescinded amount based upon FY 2006 apportionments for the Interstate Maintenance (IM), National Highway System (NHS), Bridge, Surface Transportation Program (STP) and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) programs, inclusive of funds programmatically distributed from Equity Bonus but excluding funds set aside for State Planning and Research and after application of penalties pursuant to section 154 of title 23, U.S.C., (Open Container Requirements), and section 164 of title 23, U.S.C., (Minimum Penalties for Repeat Offenders for Driving While Intoxicated or Driving Under the Influence), which are separate from, but impact the core programs by operation of law.

b. The rescissions may be taken from any unobligated funds apportioned under chapter 1 of title 23, including apportionment categories authorized prior to the Transportation Efficiency Act of the 21st Century, Pub. L. No., 105-178 as amended by the Surface Transportation Extension Act, 2004, Part V, Pub. L. No. 108-310. These categories include IM, NHS, STP, CMAQ, Bridge, Recreational Trails, Minimum Guarantee, Minimum Allocation, Interstate Construction, Interstate Substitution, Consolidated Primary, Rural Secondary, and Urban System.

c. States are encouraged to review projects funded from the older apportionment categories to determine if any of the funds can be deobligated and applied to the rescission. The States should ensure that a sufficient amount of unobligated funds is available within each program and category selected to bear the rescission. For guidance, refer to FMIS reports M28 and W10 to assist in determining the program code(s), prior fiscal years and amount to be deobligated and applied to the rescission. Once the program code(s), fiscal years and amount have been determined and submitted to the Budget Division, no obligations should be incurred by the State on the amounts identified to be rescinded.

d. Not later than 30 days after the date of this Notice, the States must identify the amounts to be rescinded from funds apportioned under chapter 1 of title 23, U.S.C., excluding title 23, U.S.C., section 130(f), Railway-Highway Crossing; title 23 U.S.C., section 133(d)(1), STP Safety Set-aside, as in effect prior to the date of enactment of Pub. L. No., 109-59; the first sentence of title 23, U.S.C., 133(d)(3)(A), STP Suballocation to areas; title 23, U.S.C., 104(b)(5), Highway Safety Improvement Program; or title 23, U.S.C., section 163, Safety Incentives to Prevent Operation of Motor Vehicles by Intoxicated Persons, as in effect prior to the enactment of Pub. L. No. 109-59, based on the amounts shown on Table 1. The information should be submitted on the attached Table 2 to the Budget Division's official electronic mailbox, "FHWA, Budget Division."

4. What action is required? Division Administrators should ensure that this Notice is provided to State departments of transportation.

(signed) J. Richard Capka, Acting Administrator (June 2003)

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