January 17, 2008
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HIGHWAY
AGC Shares Commissionís Vision: Create and Sustain the Preeminent Surface Transportation System in the World
ECONOMY
AGC Proposes Options as Congress and the White House Consider Economic Stimulus
FEDERAL HOUSING
House Passes Public Housing Bill
LABOR
AGC Opposed MSHA Bill Passes House Despite White House Veto Threat

  AGC Shares Commissionís Vision: Create and Sustain the Preeminent Surface Transportation System in the World
Bold, Visionary Plan Catalogues Future Needs and Provides Path Forward
The National Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission Tuesday released its report—Transportation for Tomorrow—[link at www.transportationfortomorrow.org] to provide a blue print for the future of surface transportation policy in the United States. 

Congress established the Commission in SAFETEA-LU, and the Commission has spent the last two years investigating the nation’s surface transportation requirements and developing comprehensive recommendations to address those needs.  Many of AGC's recommendations for the future of the surface transportation program made in testimony before the Commission and in other submittals were included in the report, such as indexing the user fee so that it keeps up with construction material inflation and creating an outside entity to establish the correct amount of user fee to finance improvements.

Highlights of the report include:

• Increased federal investment of $225-$340 billion annually to meet identified needs, with the federal government providing 40 percent of the capital
• Maintaining a strong federal role in transportation and consolidating existing programs into 10 national focus areas
• Raising the federal motor fuel tax by 25-40 cents a gallon over the next five years, thereafter indexing the rate to construction cost inflation
• Moving to a distance based tax system in the future
• Establishing ticket fees for transit and passenger rail, creating freight rail fees, and dedicating a portion of Custom’s fees to freight improvements
• Creating an independent National Surface Transportation Commission to develop a transportation strategic plan and recommend future revenue adjustments to implement the plan
• Reforming the approval system to speed delivery of transportation projects
• Allowing greater use of tolling and congestion pricing and encouraging more private investment.

While an overwhelming majority (9-3) of the Commissioners fully supports the report's recommendations, there was considerable opposition from Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and two other commissioners to some of the recommendations.  Those Commissioners included a dissenting opinion in the report, which strongly disagrees with the extent of the surface transportation investment necessary to meet current and future needs and, in particular, an increase in the federal motor fuels tax to pay for it.  The dissenters favor devolving the program so there is a more significant non-federal (i.e., state, local, private sector) role in meeting transportation needs with a diminished federal role and believe the federal emphasis should be placed on congestion pricing, tolling, and private investment rather than a complete national system with national goals. 

As expected House and Senate leaders have shied away from supporting such a significant increase in the user fee but there is general agreement that the system needs significant overhaul and a new direction. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Commission Thursday held a hearing on the report.  Leaders of the Committee complimented the Commission for completing its task in a comprehensive and bold manner and called on Congress to give the report its due consideration as Congress begins the process of SAFETEA-LU reauthorization.  The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is expected to conduct a similar hearing soon. 

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

  AGC Proposes Options as Congress and the White House Consider Economic Stimulus
AGC wrote to Congress and the White House this week with a plan which would help stave off a nationwide recession, and provide needed stimulus. 

The construction industry is a source of a significant number of jobs, providing for workers and their families across the economic spectrum, and the industry makes a disproportionately large contribution to GDP, making the industry a powerful engine of economic growth. AGC is suggesting a combination of tax ideas and increased infrastructure spending to keep the country moving forward.
 
A bi-partisan group of members of the House and Senate plan to meet with the President next week to discuss a plan to stimulate the economy.  Prevailing thought has centered on a $100 billion proposal, which could include tax cuts, a rebate check to taxpayers, as well as government spending in infrastructure or other spending. It is still uncertain if the Democrats on the Hill and the President will cooperate on the legislation.

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

  House Passes Public Housing Bill
The House of Representatives passed HR 3524 the HOPE VI Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2007 on Thursday.  The bill re-authorizes the Hope VI program through 2015 for a total of $5.6 billion in funding for public and low income housing grants and related programs.  Additionally the bill includes new green building and prevailing wage requirements for the construction of new public housing.

For more information contact Perry L. Fowler at fowlerp@agc.org or (202) 547-1983.
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  AGC Opposed MSHA Bill Passes House Despite White House Veto Threat
Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the Supplemental Mine Improvement Act (S- MINER Act) by a vote of 214–199.  AGC believes the S-MINER Act is bad public policy because it creates an unacceptable precedent by circumventing the comment and rulemaking process and prevents the right of regulated industries to comment on proposed rulemakings that affect their business.

AGC opposed the legislation because it ignores the Administrative Procedures Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act, thus preventing the development of scientifically sound, economically feasible safety and health standards and purposely avoids any studies to determine the affects on small business. Finally, it would also thrust the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health into a regulatory and policy making role, for which the organization was never intended.
 
President Bush issued a veto threat if the S-MINER Act passes the Senate and AGC will continue to oppose the legislation as it is considered in the Senate.  The outlook for passage in the Senate this year is doubtful, but the precedent the legislation could create is still a grave concern to AGC.

For more information, contact Kelly Knott at knottk@agc.org or (202) 547-4685.
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