September 4, 2008
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Congress Will Sprint to Finish by September 26
AGC Expresses Support for Supplemental Infrastructure Spending
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Leader Pitches $1.5 Trillion Transportation Plan
GOP Ticket Still Trails in the Polls

  Congress Will Sprint to Finish by September 26
Congress has planned to adjourn for the year on Friday, September 26, leaving just 3 weeks to address energy security, the highway trust fund shortfall, a continuing resolution on funding for the entire government, the extension of funding for the Airport Improvement Program, extension of expiring tax provisions and any job-based stimulus package that would include additional money for infrastructure.  During this period, AGC will be closely involved in these important legislative battles.

Highway Trust Fund
Congress must pass HR 6532 to keep the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) from running short of revenue.  Funds are currently needed to meet obligations to pay state DOTs for highway and bridge projects already under construction as well as allowing future projects to go out to bid. Revenue projections indicate that there may not be sufficient funds in the HTF to meet ongoing obligations as early as October 2008. Congress cannot wait until next year to solve this problem. Inaction will have an immediate impact on payments to contractors and will lead to further declines in highway worker employment.

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) electronic verification system, known as Basic Pilot or E-Verify, is due to expire in November. In order to prevent the program from expiring, the House passed bi-partisan legislation that would extend the program for five years while maintaining it as a voluntary program for new hires. The Senate needs to act on similar legislation prior to the elections.  While AGC remains concerned about the accuracy and reliability of the E-Verify system, passage would prevent political battles over other bills that could negatively impact the program and AGC members.

The current authorization for Federal Aviation Administration programs expires on September 30.  Congress will have to enact another extension to continue FAA's authority to collect aviation taxes and operate the nation's aviation system.  Congress attempted to attach the Highway Trust Fund fix to the current extension earlier this year.  It may serve as another opportunity to enact the Highway Trust Fund fix prior to the end of the 110th Congress.

Second Stimulus Supplemental Appropriations Bill
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) proposed a second stimulus supplemental appropriations bill in late July.  It contains several billions of dollars worth of additional fiscal year 2008 spending for a variety of construction activities.  Most notably, the bill also contains a provision to transfer $8 billion from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund to prevent an expected deficit in the Fund. 

Congress has yet to enact any of its 12 annual appropriations measures for fiscal year 2009 and it is unlikely that it will complete work on any prior to the end of the 110th Congress.  As a result, with the current fiscal year ending on September 30, Congress will need to enact a continuing resolution to keep government programs operating in the meantime.  It is expected that the continuing resolution passed prior to adjournment will not expire until early 2009.  Moreover, it will likely only continue funding for government programs at current spending levels.

Energy Security
During consideration of the continuing resolution, Congress will have an opportunity to vote on offshore drilling.  This will be the first time there will be an extensive debate on energy expansion.  AGC will be working for a comprehensive plan, lobbying for the construction of additional production and transmission networks. The additional infrastructure investment will benefit the environment, the nation’s economic competitiveness and will result in increased energy efficiency.

Lawmakers are hoping to use defense authorization bills in both chambers as vehicles to enact nearly two years' worth of legislation to overhaul government contracting. The House approved a wide-ranging amendment to the FY09 authorization bill that incorporates all or part of four procurement-related measures already passed by the chamber. Parts of a separate Senate-passed bill were also included. While the House and Senate last year passed separate, ambitious measures backed by Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine), negotiators have failed to reconcile them. The high-priority defense policy legislation is the best way to make the contracting changes law.

For more information, contact Heidi Blumenthal at (202) 547-8892 or [ return to top ]

  AGC Expresses Support for Supplemental Infrastructure Spending
AGC sent a letter this week to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) in support of the infrastructure investment provisions contained in the Chairman’s second stimulus supplemental appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008.  In particular, AGC expressed support for the Chairman’s proposal to address the impending Highway Trust Fund deficit by transferring $8 billion from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund.  The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a stand-alone piece of legislation to accomplish the transfer in July. 

In addition to the Highway Trust Fund fix, the second stimulus supplemental appropriations package proposes the following infrastructure investments above current levels of funding:

• $3.57 billion for highway investments, for states to improve deficient roads and bridges
• $892.5 million for transit capital and operating needs
• $200 million for capital improvements at airports
• $400 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) program
• $200 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support $500 million in loans and grants for rural water infrastructure
• $850 million for public school repair and renovation
• $200 million for construction and repair work of land border points of entry facilities
• $10.1 billion for natural disaster recovery in response to flooding in the Midwest, Hurricane Katrina, and western firefighting
The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to schedule consideration of the proposal. 

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

  House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Leader Pitches $1.5 Trillion Transportation Plan
At this week’s Republican National Convention in Minnesota, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Republican John Mica (R-FL) pitched a $1.5 trillion plan to invest in the nation’s transportation infrastructure.  The plan would include investments in all modes of surface transportation, including rail, and would be paid for by a mixture of federal revenue, public private partnerships, and bond proceeds. 

AGC has contacted the campaigns of both Senator McCain and Senator Obama to promote infrastructure investment as a key aspect of their campaign platforms.  The next president and his administration will have to sign off on the next surface transportation reauthorization bill due for renewal in 2009. 

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

  GOP Ticket Still Trails in the Polls
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) will formally accept his party’s nomination this evening. Senator McCain captured the attention of the media following the Democratic Party Convention with his Vice Presidential pick of Governor Sarah Palin (R-Alaska), but has yet to turn it into gains in polls.

Gallup Daily tracking polls show that the Obama/Biden ticket entered the week of August 24 tied with Senator McCain at 45%. By the end of the week Obama/Biden had picked up 4 points while McCain had dropped 3, expanding the margin to 49% from 42%, the widest margin this daily tracking poll has shown since the beginning of August.  However, this polling does not yet reflect the full impact of the GOP convention. The polling also shows that both McCain and Obama have increased their number of committed voters, and according to the most recent polling, swing voters now represent 21%, down from 30% since last week.

For more information, contact Elisa Brewer at (202) 547-5013 or [ return to top ]