WASHINGTON - The Clinton Administration yesterday proposed revamping federal transportation aid by creating state infrastructure banks and consolidating 30 grants into one worth more than $11 billion annually.
But in its sweeping plan to restructure a number of federal agencies, the administration declined to propose selling off five federal electric power agencies. White House officials are, however, still proposing drastic changes in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The plans for streamlining the Transportation Department, HUD, the Department of Energy, and two other federal agencies are expected to save the federal government $24 billion. They are designed to help offset revenue losses expected from President Clinton's proposals for cutting taxes on the middle class.
The transportation proposals include one that would set up state infrastructure banks, capitalized by the federal government, "to give jurisdictions flexibility to leverage resources for infrastructure priorities," according to a White House briefing paper. The document did not say whether the banks would issue taxable or tax-exempt debt.
The administration is also proposing one huge $11 billion federal grant "for which highway, transit, passenger rail, and airport capital projects would be eligible. Funds would be allocated by a formula to states and local jurisdictions."
In restructuring the energy department, Clinton considered selling the Bonneville Power Administration, Alaska Power Administration, Southeastern Power Administration, Southwestern Power Administration, and Western Power Administration. According to one estimate, selling the five could save the federal government $12 billion over five years.
But the proposal was absent from the plans announced yesterday for the Energy Department, leading public power industry officials who oppose the sale to claim victory, if only temporarily.
"We're very pleased this is off the table for now," said Alan Richardson, the deputy executive director of the American Public Power Association. But he said that his association would have to monitor any future restructuring proposals for the Energy Department, saying that the idea of selling the power agencies "is gone, but not forgotten."
Also yesterday, administration officials offered more details of the plan outlined by the president last Thursday for consolidating 60 HUD programs into four.
One of the four programs would be a Community Opportunity Fund, or block grant, that would "give govenors and mayors flexible resources for economic revitalization and the renewal of distressed communities" by consolidating the Community Development Block Grant Program with others that promote economic development, according to the White House briefing paper.
A second block grant would be called the Affordable Housing Fund, which would give state and local governments more authority in administering the HOME program and several other so-called housing production programs.
A third part of the restructuring involves consolidating all of HUD's public housing programs, along with the Section 8 rent subsidy program.
Fourth, the administration is proposing to transform the Federal Housing Administration into a private corporation. The White House document offered no details on how or when the FHA would be changed.