June 26, 2008
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House and Senate Drop Highway Trust Fund Fix in Aviation Measure
House Committee Holds Hearing on OSHA’s Efforts to Enforce Construction Safety Rules
Appropriations: House Panel Approves Corps of Engineers, Military Construction Measures
House Passes AMT Patch

  House and Senate Drop Highway Trust Fund Fix in Aviation Measure
The House of Representatives Tuesday and the Senate today passed legislation (H.R. 6327) providing a three month extension of the taxes and spending authority for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs but dropped from the bill a provision that would have provided an $8 billion fix for the Highway Trust Fund's (HTF) pending insolvency. This $8 billion in revenue is needed to ensure that there will not be a 34 percent or more reduction in highway funds to states below SAFETEA-LU's authorized funding levels in FY 2009. The HTF provision was dropped from the bill following strong opposition from Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), the Ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the Ranking Republican on the Budget Committee. They announced their opposition to the HTF fix in a joint press release early Tuesday, which quoted Lewis as saying, “This bill just exacerbates our transportation funding problem by using an $8 billion taxpayer-funded band-aid on the terminally ill Highway Trust Fund. We need real reform and practical solutions, not more buck passing.”

In the Senate, leadership has attempted to bring up the aviation extension measure with the same $8 billion HTF fix championed by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), ranking Republican member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.), asking for unanimous consent.  Senate Budget Committee Ranking Republican Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), however, has prevented the measure from being considered with the HTF fix. Senator Baucus Monday issued a statement saying that “Highway Trust Fund deficits threaten to derail our infrastructure projects and put our citizens at risk, yet the Senate was stopped today from passing crucial legislation for America's public safety and for folks who desperately need the jobs that highway funds create...Unfounded objections are keeping the Senate from providing a timely, responsible and critical response to the need for highway jobs and safer America's roadways.”

FAA authority expires on June 30 making the extension a priority before Congress leaves town on Friday for the July 4 recess.  Authority for the FAA will next expire on September 30. 

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

  House Committee Holds Hearing on OSHA’s Efforts to Enforce Construction Safety Rules
On Tuesday, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on construction safety dealing with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) efforts toward enforcement of safety regulations on construction worksites.  This hearing highlighted the majority party’s long-held beliefs that current OSHA officials are not doing enough to develop new regulations and are unable to properly enforce regulations currently in place. 

The recent highly publicized construction accidents in New York and Las Vegas were the main incidents discussed during the hearing, but OSHA representatives fielded the majority of questions.  The Chairman of the Committee, Congressman George Miller (D-Calif.), criticized OSHA and called for greater enforcement and fines.  The Chairman and other majority members of the committee also drew attention to OSHA's failure to update the regulations for cranes.

AGC and its members are proactive in their approach to the safety and health of workers across the nation by advocating an even handed approach, with an emphasis on training and education to avoid accidents, enforcement action on bad actors and a cooperative relationship with OSHA for preventive measures.

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

  Appropriations: House Panel Approves Corps of Engineers, Military Construction Measures
The House Appropriations Committee this week approved a $33.3 billion spending bill for the Energy Department and the Corps of Engineers Civil Works programs and a $72.7 billion FY 2009 military construction and veterans' affairs measure.

Energy and Water

The committee approved $5.3 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers and $957 million for the Bureau of Reclamation – more than $750 million over the White House request, but almost $500 million less than FY 2008 funding. The measure would provide $1.48 billion for construction programs on water infrastructure, including $75.8 million for construction in relation to the Mississippi River. It also would restore funds for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund but prohibits the Corps from awarding any additional continuing contracts for projects. While there was no additional funding to address the severe flooding in the Midwest, Members indicated there would be an additional funding measure brought up later this year.

Military Construction/VA

The $72.7 billion military construction and veterans’ affairs spending measure for FY 2009  is $3.4 billion more than the Administration's request and $8.8 billon more than FY 2008.  The measure would provide a total of $3.4 billion more than President Bush requested, including a $2.9 billion increase in VA funding.  The bill adds $400 million to Bush's request for military construction and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), with an emphasis on improving family housing.  It would add $1.1 billion to VA's construction budget to cover six additional major building projects and 145 minor construction efforts.  It also adds $136 million for military health care facilities, a result of hearings that revealed inadequate and badly aged facilities. 

For more information, contact Marco Giamberardino at marcog@agc.org or 202-547-5325. [ return to top ]

  House Passes AMT Patch
The House of Representatives Wednesday passed legislation that would temporarily stave off the effects of the alternative minimum tax (AMT) for another year.  Originally designed to ensure the wealthy paid at least a certain level of tax, the law each year has fallen on more of the middle class.  Without the patch, the average tax payer could pay up to $2,400 more in taxes.  The bill included a number of revenue-raising provisions which made it a polarizing vote, as Republicans wanted to strip out these tax increases.

The legislation now moves to the Senate where Senators have been more inclined to simply fix the AMT for one year with the revenue raising provisions.

For more information, contact Heidi Blumenthal at 202-547-8892 or blumenthalh@agc.org. [ return to top ]