Volume 4 -- Issue 36 -- September 27, 2007
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FEDERAL CONSTRUCTION FUNDING
Congress to Pass Stopgap Funding Measure
HIGHWAY
Senate Finance Committee Approves Highway Trust Fund Fix
Senate Finance Committee Approves FAA Funding Measure
MUNICIPAL & UTILITIES
AGC Helps to Promote Water Infrastructure Funding
FEDERAL & HEAVY
Senate Passes Water Resources Development Act Reauthorization
LABOR
House Small Business Committee Weighs In on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “No-Match” Rule
AGC Concerned as Congress Oversteps Boundaries of Regulatory Rulemaking Process
CONGRESS
AGC Hosts New Freshman Ally and House Transportation Chair

  Congress to Pass Stopgap Funding Measure

The U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday passed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government at current levels through November 16.  The current fiscal year ends on September 30.  The Senate is expected to pass the CR as early as Thursday.

Congress has yet to send any of its 12 annual appropriations bills to the President.  While the House has passed all 12 of its spending measures, the Senate has passed only four.  Except for the Legislative Branch appropriations bill, the Office of Management and Budget has issued veto threats on every appropriations measure that has come up for House or Senate consideration for either exceeding funding levels proposed in the Administration’s budget request or for other policy reasons. 

The outlook for federal construction spending is positive, with the House and Senate providing increases of 4.6 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively, over current year funding.  When compared to the Administration’s budget request for FY 2008, the House and Senate are recommending increases of 6.2 and 7.9 percent, respectively.

In addition, the CR includes a short-term extension of the funding mechanisms for the Federal Aviation Administration whose taxing and spending authority also expires at the end of the month.

For more information, contact Karen Bachman at bachmank@agc.org or (202) 547-4733. [ return to top ]

  Senate Finance Committee Approves Highway Trust Fund Fix

The Senate Finance Committee approved legislation last Friday intended to ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) through 2009. Both the Office of Management and Budget and Congressional Budget Office have estimated that the HTF could have a shortfall of as much as $4.3 billion in FY 2009 unless new HTF revenue is generated. Failure to provide additional revenue could result in a 36 percent cut in highway funding in FY 2009.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) developed a financing initiative to avoid this problem and included it in the bill approved late last week. The Baucus/Grassley initiative would generate the needed revenue by:

• Crediting the Highway Trust Fund for emergency expenditures paid out of the fund since 1998. 
• Suspending current fuel tax exemptions/refunds provided for gasoline used on farms and gasoline used for non-highway purposes by local transit systems.
• Implementing additional mechanisms to further crack down on fuel tax evasion, including changing the location where gasoline taxes are collected and imposing an excise tax on removing certain fuels from foreign trade zones. 
 
AGC and our transportation allies contacted members of the Finance Committee over the past two weeks to make them aware of the condition of the HTF and to urge them to support the Baucus/Grassley initiative.

For more information, contact Brian Deery at deeryb@agc.org or (703) 837-5319. [ return to top ]

  Senate Finance Committee Approves FAA Funding Measure

The Senate Finance Committee has approved the financing title of legislation to reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration programs for the next four years. The Committee’s financing title would raise the tax on noncommercial (general aviation) jet fuel.

The Senate bill raises the jet fuel tax to 36 cents per gallon from its current 21.8 cents. Unlike the House which passed its bill two weeks ago, the Senate bill did not change the tax rate on gasoline used in general aviation. The bill instead classifies aircraft owned by multiple parties as general aviation for the purposes of jet fuel taxation, repeals the ticket tax these types of planes are currently subject to, and imposes a $58-per-flight departure tax on them. Additionally, the Finance Committee’s bill would change the international departure and arrival tax from $15.10 per flight to $16.50, and index it for inflation.
 
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved its version of an FAA reauthorization bill—S. 1300—in May. S. 1300 funds the Airport Improvement Program at $15.8 billion over four years, the same as the House bill as follows: $3.8 billion in FY08, $3.9 billion in FY09, $4.0 billion in FY10 and $4.1 billion in FY11 (the program is funded at $3.5 billion in FY07). The Senate bill does not allow for an increase in the Passenger Facility Charge cap. The House bill allows the PFC cap to increase from its current $4.50 rate to $7.00. The financing title will be incorporated into S. 1300 when the full Senate takes up the measure which is expected to happen soon.

For more information, contact Brian Deery at deeryb@agc.org or (703) 837-5319. [ return to top ]

  AGC Helps to Promote Water Infrastructure Funding

AGC was on hand at the Library of Congress this week as industry gathered for a Conversation on Federal Investment in Water Infrastructure.

This forum was convened by Rep Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) a member of the Ways & Means Committee who wants to develop a closer relationship between his committee and the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee to promote federal funding for water and wastewater infrastructure.  The House has already passed a four-year $14 billion reauthorization of the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (CWSRF) this Congress. 

Last week, AGC spoke at a press conference convened by Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).  The committee began working on its own version of clean water funding legislation with a subcommittee hearing and AGC provided a statement in support of high funding levels for the SRF programs as well as establishment of a Clean Water Trust Fund.

For more information contact Stu Megaw at (703) 837-5321 or megaws@agc.org. [ return to top ]

  Senate Passes Water Resources Development Act Reauthorization

The Senate on Monday approved the conference report reauthorizing the Water Resources Development Act by an overwhelming 81-12 veto-proof margin. On August 1, the House of Representatives approved the measure by an overwhelming 381-40 margin.

The long-overdue measure, for which AGC has strongly advocated, would authorize approximately $23 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects on navigation, flood control and environmental protection. Major waterways infrastructure projects authorized by the legislation include $1.9 billion for restoration of coastal Louisiana and $3.6 billion for projects on the upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway system.

In a move to address "Corps Reform" the bill would also establish an independent peer review process to oversee controversial corps projects with a cost over $45 million, or if the governor of an affected state requests it. The National Academy of Sciences or a similar organization would conduct the reviews.
The measure, which is supposed to pass every two years, has not been reauthorized since 2000. Although President Bush has repeatedly said he will veto the bill, House and Senate leaders from both parties said they will override any veto.

For more information, please contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or giamberm@agc.org. [ return to top ]

  House Small Business Committee Weighs In on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “No-Match” Rule

This week, the House Small Business Committee Chairwoman, Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff regarding the DHS “no-match” rule that is currently on hold pending legal challenge.  Chairwoman Velazquez echoed the same thoughts put forth by her Senate counterpart, Senator Kerry (D-Mass.) as well as the Small Business Administration that the DHS rule did not conduct a proper study on the impact the rule would have on small business.           

As reported previously, the DHS rule was set to go into effect on September 14, 2007.  This was delayed as a result of a lawsuit filed by the AFL-CIO, who argues the rule will have a negative impact on workers.  Subsequently, another suit was filed by some business groups on the basis that DHS did not conduct a small business impact study.   The judge in the case is holding a hearing on these arguments on Monday, October 1, 2007.

For more information, contact Kelly Knott at Knottk@agc.org or (202) 547-4685. [ return to top ]

  AGC Concerned as Congress Oversteps Boundaries of Regulatory Rulemaking Process

On June 13, 2007, Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-La.) introduced HR 2693, the Popcorn Workers Lung Disease Prevention Act, which directs the Secretary of Labor to promulgate an interim final standard regulating worker exposure to diacetyl, a butter flavoring.  The legislation would apply to locations in the flavoring manufacturing industry that manufacture, use, handle, or process diacetyl, as well as microwave popcorn production and packaging establishments that use diacetyl-containing flavors in the manufacture of microwave popcorn.

AGC’s primary concern with HR 2693 is that the legislation is an overbroad mandate which requires OSHA to implement a final rule based only on a NIOSH Alert and a report from an outside trade association.  This bill would bypass the rulemaking process and does not provide the significant scientific data to develop proper permissible exposure limits (PELs).  AGC is also concerned as this could set a precedent for future rules.
 
The House passed HR 2693 with a 260-154 vote on September 26, 2007. The Senate has yet to introduce a companion bill.

For more information contact Michele Myers at myersm@agc.org or (703) 837-5410. [ return to top ]

  AGC Hosts New Freshman Ally and House Transportation Chair

This week AGC welcomed several organizations to the AGC Capitol Hill Townhouse in support of freshman Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa).  AGC CEO Steve Sandherr introduced Congressman Braley and spoke with Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), who was honored as the special guest at the event.

AGC’s CEO Steve Sandherr visits with Congressmen Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) at AGC’s Capitol Hill Townhouse.

Congressman Braley sits on three committees key to the construction industry, including the Transportation & Infrastructure, the Oversight & Government Reform, and Small Business.  Braley has been an important ally on the House passage of the Water Resources Development Act (HR 1495) and has a great relationship with the local chapter and contractors.  Additionally, Braley is a co-sponsor of HR 1023, the bill to repeal the 3% withholding tax. 

AGC continues to reach out to key legislative decision makers to develop inroads with those Members new to Congress in order to build long term relationships beneficial to the construction industry.

For more information contact Elisa Brewer at brewere@agc.org or (202) 547-5013.



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