Search Penny Hill Press

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Department of Transportation Budget FY2012

David Randall Peterman
Analyst in Transportation Policy

The President’s Department of Transportation (DOT) budget request for FY2012 totals $123.9 billion. It is divided into two parts: a “base” request of $78.6 billion, and a one-time “up-front boost,” related to the President’s proposal for surface transportation reauthorization beginning in FY2012, of $50 billion.

The base request is $1.7 billion (2%) more than the FY2010 enacted DOT budget of $76.9 billion. The total request is $53 billion over the FY2010 enacted level. See Table 1 for a breakdown of the request by DOT administration.

One might ask how this increase is possible in light of the President’s intention to freeze overall federal discretionary spending in FY2012 (and after) at the FY2010 level. It is possible because most DOT funding is not discretionary funding; it comes from the Highway Trust Fund, and is therefore categorized as mandatory funding. Thus, virtually all of the proposed increase counts as an increase in mandatory rather than discretionary funding. Furthermore, the FY2012 DOT budget request proposes to shift funding for some accounts from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund (which would be renamed the Transportation Trust Fund). This would have the effect of reducing the total discretionary funding for DOT in FY2012 compared to FY2011, all else being equal.

The budget request is complex because it does two different things at once: it requests funding for DOT programs for FY2012, and it restructures the major surface transportation program accounts and funding structure. The latter changes reflect elements of the Administration’s proposal for reauthorizing surface transportation programs for the next six years. The changes include adding intercity rail and new transit construction programs to the programs financed from the trust fund, and increasing the flow of revenues to the fund, although the source of the additional revenues is not specified.

Congress has struggled with surface transportation reauthorization for several years, and may find it challenging to pass a reauthorization proposal on the scale proposed by the Administration in time for it to govern the DOT budget for the fiscal year starting October 1, 2011. Detailed analysis of surface transportation reauthorization proposals is outside the scope of this report.

Date of Report: February 24, 2011
Number of Pages: 6
Order Number: R41650
Price: $19.95

Follow us on TWITTER at or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.