Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.orgJanuary 28, 2010
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On the Inside
JOBS BILL
Jobs Bill Update
INFRASTRUCTURE
President Obama Delivers First State of the Union, Infrastructure Among Top Priorities
AGC-Led Coalition Calls for Water Infrastructure Investment
BUDGET
President’s FY ’11 Budget To Be Released Next Week
HEALTH CARE
Health Care Reform Outlook Remains Uncertain
CLIMATE CHANGE
Senators Work to Stop EPA Climate Change Actions
JOBS BILL
Jobs Bill Update
 

The endgame for the Senate “jobs bill” is still uncertain.  AGC has learned that the Senate is considering breaking up a jobs package into two or more separate bills.  The first piece likely to be considered will extend SAFETEA-LU through December 31, 2010 and provide a $20 billion infusion for the Highway Trust Fund to maintain its solvency through that extension.  Other provisions being considered include extension of Build America Bonds, new jobs tax credits, and various small business incentives.

The second piece of legislation will address other infrastructure investment programs.  AGC continues to communicate with the Senate the urgent need to provide a significant investment in infrastructure in order to meet the early spring construction season. The authors of the infrastructure portion of the Jobs bill, Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), have signaled that additional funding for highways, transit, airport improvements, high speed rail and school construction will be included in the final package.  However, the level at which those programs will be funded is yet to be determined. AGC and other industry partners have strongly urged the Senate to provide at least the level of funding that was provided in the House passed “Jobs for Main Street Act” ($27.5 billion for highways, $8.4 for transit).

 In terms of funding for water infrastructure, AGC is working with Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in circulating a letter to Senate leadership that seeks inclusion of $3 billion for Clean Water State Revolving Funds and $3 billion for Drinking Water State Revolving Funds in the infrastructure piece of the jobs package.

For more information, contact Sean O’Neill at (202) 547-8892 or oneills@agc.org. Return to Top

INFRASTRUCTURE
President Obama Delivers First State of the Union, Infrastructure Among Top Priorities
 

In his first State of the Union address, President Obama used the opportunity to define jobs and the economy as his top priority, in an attempt to overcome his stalled domestic policy agenda and rising unemployment.  Obama highlighted the success of the infrastructure programs in last year’s stimulus bill, and called for additional infrastructure investment by Congress. In doing so, he praised the U.S. House for passing a jobs bill last year and called on the Senate to do the same. In addition to a jobs bill, he called for new small business tax credits, elimination of the capital gains tax for small businesses, and more investment in the nation’s schools and community colleges, which if passed, could likely turn into school construction funds. In most cases his policy ideas were left with few supporting details.  Further details on initiatives will be forthcoming in the president’s budget next Monday.

The president called on Congress to remain committed to his domestic policy agenda. He recognized that Congress is bogged down by health care, but still asked that they deliver him a bill. In addition, he asked Congress to pass comprehensive climate change and energy legislation featuring a cap and trade system. Finally, immigration rounded out the priorities list, with the president calling for a program that secures our borders, enforces our laws, and ensures that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy.

AGC supports the call for additional investment in infrastructure and targeted tax credits. However, AGC is concerned about the president’s call for a three-year discretionary spending freeze and its impact on federal construction spending accounts. The president’s position on energy policy and health care also contrast with AGC’s.  

Visit AGC’s legislative activity page for AGC’s views on these and other Obama Administration legislative priorities.  For more information, contact Jim Young at (202) 547-0133 or youngj@agc.org. Return to Top

AGC-Led Coalition Calls for Water Infrastructure Investment
 

The Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) Coalition has repeatedly met with key Senate Democrats and staff to urge additional investments EPA’s Clean and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs.  A recent study by the Environmental Council of States (ECOS), along with the Council of Infrastructure Financing Authorities (CIFA) and the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators (ASIWPCA), has indicated that there are over $56 billion in projects that would be eligible for additional funding that did not receive Recovery Act or FY10 Appropriations funding in 2010.

In support of efforts by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) to include significant funding for water infrastructure, the WIN Coalition sent a letter to the U.S. Senate asking that $6 billion be included for the SRF’s in job creation legislation.  Despite of initial delays due to new regulatory requirements in the Recovery Act, such as broad “Buy American” mandates, the most recent EPA Recovery Act SRF reports that most states are on target to meet the February 17, 2010 deadline.

Drinking Water
93.2% assistance agreements executed
76.7% all contracts executed of those 71.3% construction started

Clean Water
94.3% assistance agreements executed
82.5% all contracts executed of those 65.1% construction started

AGC and the WIN Coalition are continuing to advocate for water infrastructure investment, including the establishment of a Water Trust Fund and reauthorization of the EPA SRF programs.

Click here to view the WIN Coalition letter.
Click here to view the ECOS Survey.

To learn more about water infrastructure needs and legislation, visit www.agc.org/water. For more information, contact Perry L. Fowler at fowlerp@agc.org or (202) 837-5321. Return to Top

BUDGET
President’s FY ’11 Budget To Be Released Next Week
 

The White House announced last week that President Obama will release his FY 2011 budget on Monday, February 1. Coming on the heels of the State of Union speech, the president’s goals for this budget cycle will likely be funding job creation programs and pushing for deficit reduction.

In the State of the Union, the president announced that the FY2011 budget would contain a discretionary spending freeze at some federal agencies, excluding defense spending.  The impact of the FY 2011 budget remains to be seen.  It is unknown at this time how the proposed spending freeze will affect the federal construction accounts, fund a new jobs bill and reduce the deficit at the same time.

AGC will continue to work with relevant federal agencies and Congress to ensure adequate funding is provided for these programs and a jobs bill package that includes investment in infrastructure is passed.

For more information, contact Marco Giamberardino at (703) 837-5325 or giamberm@agc.org. Return to Top

HEALTH CARE
Health Care Reform Outlook Remains Uncertain
 

Following the president's State of the Union Address and his calls for a jobs bill, House and Senate Democratic leaders must find a way to wrap up consideration of the health care bill. The path forward on health care appears to be even further complicated by the recent election in Massachusetts.

The options available to finishing work on health care include: 1) House accepts the Senate bill and makes technical changes through the reconciliation process (posing a significant political risk); 2) A smaller bill with limited reforms, causing significant financing problems; 3) Congress moves onto a jobs bill, and returns to health care later in the year, a process that could push reform to a future Congress; and 4) Continue on current path and find one or two Republican Senators who support the bill.

Other options remain, and Senate leaders continue to find compromises. AGC continues to communicate with Congress on the impact the legislation will have on the construction industry. The amendment to the Senate bill that specifically targets the construction industry remains in the current proposal. Initially, Congress recognized the complexity and costs associated with the employer mandates in the bill, and exempted all businesses that employ less than 50 employees from the mandate. However, the Senate version of health care reform singles out contractors by requiring them to comply with the employer mandate once they have five employees and their payroll reaches $250,000.

For more information, contact Jim Young at (202) 547-2133 or youngj@agc.org. Return to Top

CLIMATE CHANGE
Senators Work to Stop EPA Climate Change Actions
 

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska) on January 21 introduced a bipartisan disapproval resolution to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act.  Cosponsored by 35 Republicans and three Democrats, the resolution would nullify EPA’s December 2009 finding that GHG emissions endanger public health and welfare and thus are subject to federal regulation under the Clean Air Act. 

The resolution was introduced under the Congressional Review Act, which offers expedited procedures to ensure an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, with a simple majority of 51 senators needed for approval.  Even if the Senate approves the resolution, it must overcome political and procedural hurdles in the House, and requires President Obama’s signature to overturn EPA’s endangerment finding and stop further regulation.  Regardless of whether the resolution passes both chambers of Congress with a veto-proof majority, approval of the resolution would be a set-back to climate change efforts by the administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress. 

AGC does not support climate change policies that would adversely impact the commercial construction industry while bringing little environmental benefit, and supports the Murkowski amendment.  For more information on EPA’s endangerment finding and AGC’s response, click here.

For more information, contact Karen Lapsevic at (202) 547-4733 or lapsevick@agc.org. Return to Top

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