Bipartisan Budget Act provides transport, rail benefits

Published: February 9, 2018

Last updated on February 14th, 2018

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 passed early this morning by both houses of Congress and signed by President Donald Trump provides some benefits to transportation workers and the industry.

“Discretionary spending for domestic infrastructure will see a $20 billion increase, which could mean more funds for transit and/or Amtrak-related projects. The two-year budget provides a better opportunity to secure adequate funding for National Mediation Board arbitration and Railroad Retirement Board agency needs,” said National Legislative Director John Risch.

The bill also includes a one-year (2017) extension of the short-line tax credit known as Section 45G, that helps Class II and III railroads pay for the maintenance of their infrastructure.

Finally, the tax credit known as Section 45-Q that encourages power companies to capture carbon emissions in coal-fired plants, helping to keep coal a part of the United States energy mix, has been extended.

However, the bill does not exempt unemployment and sickness benefits provided by the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) from the funding cuts known as sequestration. Some media reports said all nondefense-related sequesters were repealed, but the board confirmed later that RRB unemployment and sickness benefits are categorized as direct, not discretionary, spending and therefore still were subject to being sequestered.

Sequestration has carved out 6.6 percent of the funding to these RRB benefits – which would translate to a total of $9 million in the 2018 fiscal year. Restoration of these funds would reinstate the maximum of $72.00 per day or $720.00 per two-week or 10-day claim period for rail workers who claim unemployment or sickness through RRB.