Chao Proposes 90% Bump in Her Office Budget While Pushing Deep Cuts Elsewhere in DOT

At hearing today, Chao must answer for her own office’s huge proposed budget increases

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  Secretary Elaine Chao has a lot of explaining to do. Later this morning, Chao will testify in front of the House Committee on Appropriations on her controversial budget proposal that would slash the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) discretionary spending authority by 13% while increasing funding for the Office of the Secretary by a staggering 90%.

In previous budgets, Chao has advocated for deep cuts to vital safety entities such as the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Safety Office. Even in the wake of the tragic Boeing 737 MAX crashes, Chao advanced budgets that could hobble the vital safety agency. 

“For the last three years, Secretary Chao has treated the Department of Transportation like her personal office instead of the nation’s top transportation regulator. She’s used her office to help her husband’s political prospects, sided with special interests over travelers, and tried to gut key safety programs,” said Lizzy Price, director of Restore Public Trust. “This latest budget proposal is a slap in the face to the millions of Americans who rely on DOT. The public deserves answers.”

In her FY 2021 DOT budget proposal, Chao is requesting $89 billion, a 13% decrease in overall discretionary budget authority from what was appropriated in FY 2020. But her request for the Office of the Secretary is $2.8 billion, a 90% increase from the office’s previous appropriation of $1.5 billion. 

Her request also includes a significant increase for her own discretionary authority, which she has systematically politicized in recent years. DOT’s discretionary spending authority has recently faced congressional scrutiny, following a GAO report that claimed DOT’s process for awarding discretionary INFRA grants “lacked consistency and transparency.” 


President Trump and Secretary Chao have proposed numerous cuts to vital safety programs, including…


  • Secretary Chao’s pattern of bias toward Kentucky is under investigation by the Department of Transportation’s inspector general.
  • Chao may have unfairly helped Kentucky, the state her husband Mitch McConnell represents in the Senate, win a highly competitive $67.4 million INFRA grant — the largest transportation grant the state has received under the Trump administration.
  • In an unprecedented move, Chao assigned a special liaison in the Department of Transportation to handle McConnell’s Kentucky projects.


Press Release

DOTElaine ChaoPress Release

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