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Federal funding cuts could affect local infrastructure, transportation

Potential loss of federal funding threatens local services
Federal funding cuts proposed by President Donald Trump could hurt infrastructure construction, popular grant programs and air service. A House bill could preserve funding for some programs.

President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the federal budget could be felt locally, with homeownership assistance, infrastructure construction and air service among the areas affected.

Colorado Municipal League, a nonpartisan group that represents cities and towns across the state, is concerned

“It’s not a really good budget in terms of strength and partnership between Washington and local governments,” said Sam Mamet, executive director of the league. This month, the league called on cities and towns to contact the Colorado congressional delegation to oppose the cuts.

U.S. House bills propose scaling back some cuts in the 2018 budget, which is supposed to be approved Oct. 1.

The president proposed cutting the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program that has paid for $4.6 billion in infrastructure projects since it was started in 2009. A U.S. House bill also proposes eliminating the program in 2018.

Elimination of the program could increase competition for transportation infrastructure grants, in a state where there is never enough money to go around, Mamet said.

The president has promised to boost funding for infrastructure projects, but his plan may rely on partnerships with the private sector, which would not work as a financing tool for rural roads, said Sidny Zink, transportation commissioner for District 8 of the Colorado Department of Transportation.

For example, revenue from a toll road can be used to maintain it on the Front Range, but not enough toll money can be generated in rural areas to make those projects attractive to private companies, she said.

But public-private partnerships in urban areas of Colorado could free up more money to be used in rural areas, she said.

Communities across the state are likely to see ballot questions this fall to increase local taxes for street improvements and other infrastructure projects, Mamet said.

But federal dollars are needed to help support projects in municipalities, he said.

“The national government should be an equalizer,” he said.

The president’s budget proposed eliminating funding for the Community Development Block Grant Program, which provided $1.4 million to the HomesFund to provide down-payment assistant to homebuyers over three years, said Assistant City Manager Amber Blake. The city administers the program for the nonprofit.

A U.S. House bill in July set aside $2.96 billion for the grant program, which would cut $100 million from the program.

Eliminating the block grant program would cut the operational funding for the HomesFund, Executive Director Lisa Bloomquist Palmer said.

“We do not receive enough income from our lending activities to fund our operations. We’re dependent on CDBG administration fees, as well as the generous funding of our granters ... in order to fund our operations,” she wrote in an email.

However, Palmer said it’s unlikely CDBG funding will be cut.

“It seems like CDBG is always on the chopping block, but then people realize what the implications would be,” she said.

The program also supports public housing, homeless facilities, food banks, mental health facilities, child care and senior services.

The president also called for the elimination of the $175 million Essential Air Service Program, which supports Cortez and airports in other rural towns. It was restored in a U.S. House bill.

The program paid for a two-year, $6 million contract with Boutique Air, which started in 2016.

Sep 9, 2017
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