Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgJuly 16, 2009
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On the Inside
TRANSPORTATION
AGC Member Testifies Before Small Business Panel on Transportation Reauthorization
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
AGC-Supported Water Trust Fund Legislation Introduced
AGC Officer Testifies on Water Trust Fund
HEALTH CARE
Health Care Legislation Could Restrict Job Creation
 
TRANSPORTATION
AGC Member Testifies Before Small Business Panel on Transportation Reauthorization
 
Jack Mills, President of Plum Contracting, Inc., located in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, testified today before the House Small Business Committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight on the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization bill.  Mills testified on behalf of AGC and called on Congress to pass a multi-year bill to replace SAFETEA-LU, set to expire on September 30, as well as an immediate fix to ensure that the Highway Trust Fund has the cash balance it needs to continue making daily reimbursements to state departments of transportation.  

The U.S. Department of Transportation has found that the balance of the fund will fall below the minimum cash level necessary to make daily payments by the end of August.  Mills explained the cash flow implications that contractors would face under this circumstance.  U.S. DOT and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) have estimated that the fund needs an additional $7-8 billion to finish fiscal year 2009 and an additional $10 billion for fiscal year 2010.  

Congress is also currently considering whether to pass an extension of SAFETEA-LU of up to 18 months in lieu of multi-year reauthorization bill.  The Administration supports an 18-month extension, and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved such a measure on Wednesday.  Mills urged Congress to reject an 18-month extension and to continue working towards a multi-year bill.  Mills called on Congress to boost investment in surface transportation funded by an increase in the motor fuels user fee, as well as improved highway work zone safety provisions and incentives to contractors to retrofit their diesel-powered equipment.

During the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) and Ranking Member Mary Fallin (R-Okla.) indicated their opposition to an 18-month extension.  Both are also members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which is currently debating a multi-year reauthorization bill, the Surface Transportation Authorization Act.  

For more information, contact Karen Lapsevic at (202) 547-4733 or lapsevick@agc.org. Return to Top
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
AGC-Supported Water Trust Fund Legislation Introduced
 

On the eastern front of the U.S. Capitol Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation to establish a Water Trust Fund. The “Water Protection and Reinvestment Act,” H.R.3202, establishes a $10 billion annual fund for repairing America’s corroded pipes and overburdened sewer systems, which pose serious health, environmental and security consequences.

For a summary of the legislation click here.

Establishing a “Trust Fund” for clean water and drinking water infrastructure is a top legislative priority for AGC of America and will address the serious gap in water infrastructure investment, which is estimated at $400-600 billion dollars over the next 20 years. This legislation is the result of years of work by AGC and the WIN Coalition and we are encouraged that the legislation has finally been introduced.  The goal of H.R. 3202 is to raise at least $10 billion annually thorough a series of user fees on bottled beverages, pharmaceuticals, flushables and other sources

AGC CEO Steve Sandherr participated in the event and stated, “While our water infrastructure is often out of sight and out of mind, failures in the system threaten our health, our environment and our economy. That is why the 33,000 member companies of the Associated General Contractors of America, along with their millions of employees and families, support establishing a Water Trust Fund and doing it now.” Read AGC’s official statement here

This legislation is subject to the jurisdiction of several congressional committees and AGC will continue to work with the WIN Coalition and other industry and congressional allies to ensure this legislation is successful and based on sound policy

For more information, contact Perry L. Fowler at (703)837-5321 or fowlerp@agc.org.
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AGC Officer Testifies on Water Trust Fund
 
AGC Vice President Kris Young, President and CEO of Miller the Driller in Des Moines, Iowa, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water and Natural Resources  regarding the GAO report titled “Opportunities and Challenges in the Creation of a Clean Water Trust Fund.”

Young voiced AGC of America’s support of a “trust fund” for water infrastructure, and shared a contractor’s perspective on the funding challenges that local communities face in replacing and rehabilitating drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. In her testimony, Young stated that often a contractor is not called until disaster strikes, citing frequent infrastructure failures in her local community. Young also pointed out the high unemployment in the construction industry and referenced AGC research on how infrastructure investment spurs economic growth and provides employment for construction workers and numerous other industries.

Young also cited the precedent for using trust funds to tackle national infrastructure priorities and that financing water infrastructure through a trust fund would have several advantages over general fund financing. This is because the funding stream would not be subject to the vagaries of the annual appropriations process, thereby providing the certainty that state and local officials need to commit to long-term infrastructure projects. Additionally, Young stated that the revenue sources for a trust fund must be defensible and supported by the public.

Young also discussed the importance of educating the public about our water infrastructure needs and highlighted AGC’s efforts to do so with the Liquid Assets documentary. Several other witnesses including the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, Maryland Department of the Environment, and the American Society of Civil Engineers testified in support of the trust fund concept

For a summary of the hearing content, witness testimonies and video of the hearing, click here.

For more information, contact Perry L. Fowler at (703)837-5321 or fowlerp@agc.org. Return to Top
HEALTH CARE
Health Care Legislation Could Restrict Job Creation
 
President Obama continues to push his campaign promises to enact comprehensive health care reform legislation. He has outlined an aggressive timeline with both houses of congress passing legislation before August and then using the August recess to reconcile the bills. Obama’s ultimate goals is to have a bill sign on his desk by October.  Despite the complexity of passing the major overhaul of health reform legislation the democratic leadership in congress is working toward keeping the timeline in tact.
 
The most recent development is the introduction of legislation in the House. The legislation must go through three committees of jurisdiction before it can be considered on the House floor. The legislation introduces mandates on employers, surtaxes on individuals, the creation of a public plan option and limiting the business eligible to be entered into government exchanges.  The mandate on employers who do not provide health care could be as high as an 8 percent payroll tax. The tax is imposed regardless of a business’s profitability and could restrict job growth. The proposed surtax applies to all individuals with incomes above $350,000 and ranges from 1 to 5.4 percent of income. This tax is especially troubling as many business are structure as pass through entities and the business taxes are paid at the individual level. Again, this tax could restrict job growth and expansion. Also, the public option in the legislation fails to level the playing field, reform the insurance markets and address the rising costs of coverage. Finally, the “exchange” created in the legislation fails to guarantee business eligibility to enter it. The legislation allows businesses with fewer than 20 employees automatic entry, this could further complicate the small group market which is the same markets which have the greatest problems with rising costs.
 
The debate in the Senate could be further complicated as two health reform versions are being drafted. The Senate bills contain many of the same concerns.  The Senate may take a more pragmatic approach and try and find a bipartisan proposal which may delay consideration of the legislation.

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