December 20, 2007
Email the Editor
Home Page
. Search back issues
. Forward to a Friend
.
. Subscribe/Unsubscribe
Printer Friendly
Appropriations
Finishing 2008 Spending Business, Congress Adjourns First Session
Energy
President Signs Energy Bill, Increases Fuel Economy Standards
2007 Wrap Up
2007 AGC Government Affairs Year in Review
2007 AGC Grassroots Year in Review

  Finishing 2008 Spending Business, Congress Adjourns First Session
Congress adjourned this week by sending to the President a $555 billion, 11-bill Omnibus appropriations measure.  The Omnibus meets the President’s overall discretionary spending limit of $932.8 billion—when the already enacted Defense bill is included—and includes $70 billion towards the President’s $196.4 billion request to continue military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Included in the $11.2 billion “emergency” spending for veterans’ programs and drought relief was $2.7 billion for border security.  The legislation provides some flexibility for the border spending, including electronic, vehicular or manpower options, in addition to a fence in efforts to provide security.

Construction Accounts

Given pressure to maintain discipline over discretionary spending limits, appropriations for federal construction accounts total $107 billion for fiscal year 2008.  Despite some significant cuts in a few major accounts, overall federal construction spending is up 4.0 percent over the prior year’s levels and 5.7 percent over those proposed in the President’s budget.  Below is a sample of appropriations for selected major federal construction accounts:

  • Federal-Aid Highway Obligation Limitation, $41.2 billion (includes $1 billion additional spending for bridge repair and reconstruction), up 5.4 percent over FY 2007 and up 4.1% from the budget
  • Airport Improvement Program, $3.5 billion (0% and +28%)
  • Federal Transit Capital Grants, $1.6 billion (+0.2% and +12.1%)
  • Military Construction, $9.9 billion (+29% and 3.9%)
  • Base Realignment and Closure Commission, $7.5 billion (+28% and -10%)
  • Military Family Housing, $2.9 billion (-29% and -2.2%)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Construction General, $2.3 billion (-3.3% and 51%)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Operations and Maintenance, $2.2 billion (+13% and -9.2%)
  • Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund Program, $689.1 million (-36.4% and +0.2%)
  • Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund Program, $829.0 million (-1.0% and -1.6%)
  • General Services Administration Construction, $306.4 million (-56.3% and -50.2%)
  • General Services Administration Repairs and Alterations, $722.2 million (+16.8% and -10.2%)

Congress Directs DOL to Provide Timetables for Rulemaking

Within 90 days of becoming law, the omnibus appropriations bill directs the Department of Labor (DOL) to provide Congress specific timetables on the development and issuance of safety standards in particular areas, including: beryllium, silica, cranes and derricks, and confined space in construction.  AGC continues to discuss these issues with DOL and will make sure the needs of the general contractor are considered.

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

  President Signs Energy Bill, Increases Fuel Economy Standards

On Wednesday the President signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, including the first statutory increase in fuel economy standards in 35 years.  The new law boosts the corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE) for cars and light trucks, including sport utility vehicles, from a combined 25 miles per gallon (mpg) today to 35 mpg by 2020.  The bill also requires the production of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022, which would add greatly to the demand for construction of ethanol, biodiesel, and other production facilities.

Congress dropped—for now—renewal of tax incentives for numerous alternative energy sources, but put in place new energy efficiency standards and requirements during construction, and requires federal buildings to reduce their energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015.  In addition, the bill creates an Office of Commercial High-Performance Green Buildings tasked with reducing the quantity of energy consumed by commercial buildings with the goal of achieving “zero net energy” commercial buildings by 2030.

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

  2007 AGC Government Affairs Year in Review

AGC Remains Vigilant on Unreasonable Employer Sanctions and Defends Against Onerous Debarment Language

AGC successfully defeated several efforts by Congress to include language that would debar contractors for up to ten years should they be found to have undocumented workers or even minor paperwork violations. Though comprehensive immigration reform remains elusive, AGC continues to be on the alert for efforts to unreasonably hold employers accountable for failures of the federal government. This includes efforts that would make general contractors responsible and liable for their subcontractors hiring practices, the imposition of a pilot project for employee verification without protections for employers using the system, as well as the necessity to phase-in the mandatory use of such a program to ensure the system can manage the influx of users.

Congress Fails to Fix Highway Trust Fund (HTF) Solvency

Calculations of the HTF’s Highway Account project a shortfall of $4.3 billion in fiscal year 2009, which would require a cut of nearly $16 billion—or nearly 40 percent—in states’ highway funding for next year if additional revenues are not found.  The crisis will likely gain attention in early February when the President’s budget recommends cuts to federal-aid highway spending due to insufficient revenue.

AGC Leads the Way for Congress' Approval of Water Resources Legislation

AGC led the effort to successfully override President Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. This legislation authorizes $23 billion in civil works projects administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

AGC Pushes for Water Infrastructure Funding

AGC worked with the House on H.R. 720, the Water Quality Financing Act of 2007, which provides $14 billion over four years to capitalize states’ revolving loan fund programs for wastewater collection and treatment systems.  Movement in the Senate has been stalled due to concerns over the application of Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements.

AGC Calls for Embassy Construction Reform

AGC concerns over the declining number of American contractors participating in the State Department’s embassy construction program have resulted in a General Accountability Office study which is currently underway. AGC member contractors helped build nearly 60 new embassies and consulates in 2007.

AGC Halts Federal Wetlands Jurisdiction Grab

AGC and a coalition of wide-ranging interests were able to halt action in Congress on the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 (H.R. 2421/S. 1870), which would broaden federal jurisdiction over waters and wetlands and greatly increase the number of circumstances under which contractors would have to obtain dredge and fill permits.  AGC expects more attempts to move the bill next year.

AGC Works with Congress to Repeal Harmful 3% Withholding

AGC has secured overwhelming support of 239 cosponsors in the House and 10 in the Senate to repeal the 3% withholding law. While the House has voted twice on a one year delay, AGC is pushing Congress to focus on full repeal of the 3% withholding, which is due to be implemented in 2011.

AGC Applauds Congress for AMT Delay

At the last possible moment, Congress voted to delay the full effect of the alternative minimum tax (AMT), stopping a tax increase of as much as $2000 per taxpayer. This AMT relief will be helpful for AGC members who have closely-held companies and pay their business tax at the individual level.

AGC-Supported Extension of TRIA Passes Congress

Legislation to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) will soon be signed into law, extending the program seven years.  TRIA was created after the 9/11 attacks when terrorism insurance was either no longer available, or offered but prohibitively expensive. The program creates a government backstop, should another terrorist attack occur, that would help cover the costs of such an attack once a certain monetary threshold was met. The bill provides coverage for acts of domestic terrorism, but does not include coverage for nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological attacks.

AGC Recommendations Adopted in New Ethics Rule

AGC responded to a proposed rule requiring most federal contractors and subcontractors to adopt and promote a code of business ethics. The government accepted several AGC recommendations, including one exempting all small businesses from the rulemaking.

AGC Speaks for Contractors During the Regulatory Process

AGC responded to several proposed rulemakings to require contractors to: 1) certify that they do not owe taxes when bidding on federal contracts; 3) review the appropriate uses for reverse auctions in government procurement, and; 4) the utilization of one-step design-build by the U.S. Coast Guard.

AGC Ensures Federal Contracting Reform Works for Members

AGC reviewed and commented on a variety of measures passed by Congress intended to improve the quality of government contracts, increase contract oversight, and promote integrity in contracting. AGC obtained several improvements to these bills to ensure that any proposed contracting reform laws are reasonable and do not change procurement laws to harm federal construction contractors.

AGC-Recommended Improvements Headline Small Business Reauthorization

AGC worked with Small Business leaders in Congress to ensure that all AGC small business priority issues, including HUBZone and subcontracting data reporting reform, are on track to be included in the upcoming SBA Reauthorization. In the meantime, President Bush signed H.R. 4252, which extends the authorizations of certain Small Business Administration programs until May 23, 2008 in order to give Congress time to conference together three different bills addressing SBA Reauthorization.

For more information, look for the AGC News and Views in your e-mail or postal box. [ return to top ]

  2007 AGC Grassroots Year in Review

AGC members play an integral part in the advocacy efforts of the association.  Members held over 300 legislative meetings during three national meetings held in Washington, D.C., visited AGC’s Legislative Action Center (LAC) Web Site over 140,000 times, and sent over 4,500 letters to Members of Congress through the LAC . In addition, AGC sent over 10,000 letters and e-mails to Congress and the Administration prior to votes on issues of significance to the construction industry. AGC also Key Voted 11 legislative priority issues. 

Go to www.agc.org/myrep for information on your Congressional member. For more information, please contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or youngj@agc.org. [ return to top ]