WASHINGTON — Enforcement of commercial vehicle regulations will not be affected should Congress not pass legislation in the next three days to avoid the $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts that are scheduled to be implemented March 1.
The Department of Transportation’s portion of the cuts would amount to about $1 billion, according to a DOT spokesman, and would be particularly to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Meanwhile, under the terms of the Budget Control Act, almost 75 percent of the DOT budget — including almost all programs funded through the Highway Trust Fund — is exempt from cuts.
Virtually all of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration budget is funded through the Highway Trust Fund.
The portion that is not, is unrelated to day-to-day enforcement activities.
In addition, the spokesman said that the exemption means grants for airports, some transit projects and roads and bridges, as well motor vehicle safety programs and vehicle safety programs, are largely exempt from sequestration.
The impacts across DOT range from hiring freezes and cutting back contracts and travel to furloughs at the FAA and possibly the Federal Transit Administration and the Surface Transportation Board, the spokesman said.
In addition, the spokesman said that at the Federal Transit Administration, a 5 percent cut to the New Starts/Small Starts program would reduce funding for critical transit projects by approximately $100 million this year, creating unplanned borrowing and financing costs for states and local government. The cuts would also require FTA to revise its payment schedule for New Starts/Small Starts projects, slowing the payments the federal government previously committed to making.
The DOT has 55,000 employees and has an annual budget $70 billion.
The FAA itself has 47,000 of that total, all of whom could be furloughed for one day per pay period, with a maximum of two days, and more than 100 air traffic control towers at small- and medium-sized airports could potentially close.
Furloughs will cause delays for travelers through major cities during peak hours, and the DOT expects airlines will consider changing schedules and cancelling flights, the spokesman said.
Republicans have generally called the impending cutbacks at the FAA a scare tactic.
Earlier this week, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Ranking Member John Thune, R-S.D., called on the administration to provide any details about its plans to meet the spending reductions for the FAA under the sequester.
“Since August of 2012, Congress has attempted to gather information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding spend plans under the current continuing resolution and in preparation for the possibility of a budget sequestration that may take effect on March 1 of this year,” the senators wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “To date, those requests for information have gone unanswered. Given the Administration and the Department’s recent statements on a possible sequestration’s effects on the traveling public, it is imperative that the information we have continuously sought be provided as soon as possible.”
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