Percentage Change from 2011: 68 percent increase
Discretionary Spending: $13.4 billion
Highlights: Obama is calling for spending $556 billion over six years for highway, transit and passenger rail construction, as well as safety programs. That includes $53 billion for high-speed trains in addition to the $10.5 billion already committed for train projects. High-speed rail is one of Obama's signature programs, but the budget proposal puts him on a collision course with House Republicans. They voted last week to cut $1 billion for fast trains from the current budget.
The last long-term government transportation construction program expired on Oct. 1, 2008. The administration and Congress have kept the program limping along through a series of short-term extensions that included dipping into the general treasury for funds. What's not in the president's budget is an increase in federal gasoline and diesel taxes to pay for construction. Obama's deficit commission recommended as much as a 15 cent increase phased in over several years. Both the White House and congressional leaders see a gas tax increase as a political nonstarter.
To help pay for highway and transit construction, the administration proposes using $30 billion of the $556 billion as seed money to start up a national infrastructure bank that would make loans to major transportation projects.
Industry and labor have been pushing for increased spending on road, rail and transit projects to help generate jobs and reduce costly traffic congestion. Two blue-ribbon commissions have predicted nightmarish congestion without a major national effort to repair and improve the nation's transportation system.
The budget proposal also would reduce funds for airport construction by $1.1 billion — nearly a third — by eliminating grants to large and medium hub airports. In exchange, it would give larger airports the power to increase the fee charged to airline passengers to as much as $7. Currently, airports are allowed to charge up to $4.50, although not all of them do. Passengers pay a fee for each airport they pass through, including when they change planes. The airline industry is opposed increasing airport fees, which are added to the ticket price passengers pay.
Agency: Veterans Affairs
Spending: $129 billion
Percentage Change from 2011: 4.5 percent increase
Discretionary Spending: $58.8 billion
Highlights: More than 2.2 million service members have deployed for war since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The budget proposal would provide $208 million in aid to caregivers who are family members of the severely wounded from the recent wars. It's part of a law signed last year by President Barack Obama. It would invest $183 million to help jumpstart VA's effort to reduce its massive claims backlog that's left veterans waiting months or years for a benefit check by starting to implement a paperless claims system. It would invest $939 million to help expand services for homeless veterans through private and public partnerships. It also would provide $6 billion for programs targeting the mental health needs of veterans, including those with traumatic brain injury. The proposed budget would cut spending for construction. House Veterans' Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, a Republican, has promised to do a thorough review of spending at the VA.