Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org December 2, 2010
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On the Inside
BUDGET
Deficit Reduction Commission to Vote on Plan Tomorrow
House Passes Two Week Continuing Resolution
TAX
House Democrats Force Successful Vote on Middle-Class Tax Cuts Despite Ongoing Negotiations on Broader Extension
LABOR
Senate May Consider AGC-Supported Measure to Limit Liability of Contractors Working at Ground Zero
ENVIRONMENT
DERA Reauthorizing Legislation Introduced, More Than 500 Organizations Urge Passage
BUDGET
Deficit Reduction Commission to Vote on Plan Tomorrow
 

On December 1, the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (otherwise known as the deficit reduction commission) released the commission’s final report. While the Commission met the deadline for a final report as spelled out in President Obama’s Executive Order that established the Commission, the co-chairs decided to delay a vote on the plan until tomorrow to give undecided commissioners more time to review the document. Fourteen of the 18 Commissioners must support the recommendations for the report to be approved and sent to Congress.

Included in the report is an AGC-supported recommendation to gradually increase the federal gas tax by 15 cents between 2013 and 2015 with the revenue going to the Highway Trust Fund. The report recommends that Congress limit spending from the trust fund to the level of dedicated revenues collected from the previous year. The report also recommends that Congress adopt significant reforms to control federal highway spending. Specifically, Congress should limit trust fund spending to the most pressing infrastructure needs rather than forcing states to fund low-priority projects. In addition, the report also recommends an end to the practice of appropriations and authorization earmarks. Among the tax reform proposals, the plan calls for the elimination of general business credits and other tax expenditures but also lowers overall tax rates for individual and corporations.  The full report can be accessed here.

AGC is working to garner support for the report from at least 14 commissioners. Currently nine commissioners have pledged their support for the plan, while three oppose it.  Serving on the panel are a dozen sitting lawmakers from both parties, and several are still undecided as to how they will vote. They are: Representatives Dave Camp (R-Mich.); John Spratt (D-S.C.); Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) and Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).

AGC and our construction and transportation allies have issued press statements and contacted Commission members in support of the proposal. AGC Chapters have been asked to do the same. A showing of support from the grass roots will be helpful in this effort. AGC has a letter on the Legislative Action Center for your use in contacting your Congressional delegation.

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

House Passes Two Week Continuing Resolution
Surface Transportation Authorization Extension Remains Unresolved, FAA Reauthorization Poised For Yet Another Extension
 

On December 1, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a new continuing resolution that would maintain federal funding at FY 2010 levels through December 18.  The current continuing resolution, which also funds the government at FY10 levels, expires on December 3.

The latest continuing resolution would give Congress more time to decide whether it will pass a FY 2011 omnibus spending bill (13 separate bills rolled into one bill) before adjourning, or move ahead with another continuing resolution that would fund the government at FY 2010 levels into or through the next year.  Senate Democrats are drafting a $1.1 trillion FY 2011 omnibus bill, while House Democrats are leaning towards a Continuing Resolution until the end of FY 2011. 

The current extension of federal surface transportation programs expires on December 31 and both the House and Senate appear to support an extension of current programs at current funding levels.  However, there is not agreement on the length of the extension.  Senate Republicans and Democrats want a nine month extension, which would fund programs through FY 2011, while House Republicans prefer a five to six month extension.  House Democrats have shown no indication as to the extension length they would prefer.  It is likely that this extension will be voted on prior to the expiration of the Continuing Resolution on December 18.   The AGC co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition sent a letter to Congress in support of an extension of no less than six months.

Even though practically all of the outstanding issues have been agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators, it is unlikely that the FAA Reauthorization bill will be finalized before the current extension expires on December 31.  In anticipation of that, the House is scheduled to vote this week on yet another extension with the Senate to follow.

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

TAX
House Democrats Force Successful Vote on Middle-Class Tax Cuts Despite Ongoing Negotiations on Broader Extension
 

As bipartisan negotiations on extending the Bush-era tax cuts continue, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives today scheduled a vote on a bill to continue tax cuts for the middle class only.  Without congressional action, all Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire on December 31.  The bill passed by a vote of 234 to 188.  The Senate is not expected to take up the legislation in its current form.

In addition to making the current rates permanent for the middle-class—those making less than $200,000 a year and couples making less than $250,000 a year—the legislation would also include a limited, two-year patch of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), as well as permanent extensions of the child tax credit, marriage penalty relief, and the Earned Income Tax Credit.  However, the legislation does not deal with the estate tax or the roughly $30 billion in tax measures that expired at the end of 2009, such as the research and development tax credit and the 15-year shortened cost recovery period for leasehold, retail and restaurant improvements widely supported by the business community.

Meanwhile in the Senate, all 42 Senate Republicans signed a pledge this week to filibuster all legislation until the chamber takes up legislation to fund the government and extend all tax cuts.

The Senate this week also rejected two amendments that would have repealed the IRS Form 1099 requirement that was enacted as part of the healthcare bill earlier this year.  The provision requires businesses to file 1099s with the IRS and any business from which they spend $600 or more annually on goods or services.  The amendments failed over disagreements on whether and how to offset the cost of the repeal.

According to press reports, negotiators are working on a compromise to extend all Bush-era tax cuts for a period of one to three years.  Republicans have also insisted that agreements likewise must be reached on the estate tax and other already expired tax provisions. 

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

LABOR
Senate May Consider AGC-Supported Measure to Limit Liability of Contractors Working at Ground Zero
 

During the lame duck session, the Senate may take action on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.  This bill would provide health benefits for 9/11 workers and also includes language that would limit the liability of the contractors that worked at the site of the terrorist attack in New York City. 

These contractors responded in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Twin Towers and continued working for over a month without contracts while at the direction of federal, state and city officials.  These contractors continue to face an enormous amount of liability from lawsuits from those who developed health problems in the aftermath of the attacks.  The House passed the legislation at the end of September 2010.  Concerns in the Senate are mostly about the cost of the special health care program established by the bill. 

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

ENVIRONMENT
DERA Reauthorizing Legislation Introduced, More Than 500 Organizations Urge Passage
 

On November 18, Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) introduced the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) of 2010 with 29 cosponsors to reauthorize this popular program for another five years. 

On November 9, AGC and several AGC Chapters joined over 500 organizations, including environment, health and public service sectors, in signing and sending a letter to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives asking them to reauthorize the DERA for another five years during the lame duck session of Congress.

The legislation makes some improvements to the program, including a provision that would simplify the application process and allow private entities to apply directly to the U.S. EPA for a DERA grant for equipment used on a public project. 

In the House, Congresswoman Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) is expected to introduce a similar version of the bill. 

Supporters are working to enact the legislation in the remaining weeks of the 111th Congress, although no action on either bill has yet been scheduled.  If Congress fails to act prior to adjournment, the legislation will have to be reintroduced in the 112th Congress. 

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

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