Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org January 27, 2011
Spacer
AGC Home Page
Email our Editor
Search Back Issues
Forward to a Friend
Subscribe
Printer Friendly
AGC Political Toolkit
Take Action!
On the Inside
BUDGET
State of the Union, Continuing Resolution, Debt Limit and Congressional Budget Office Report Offer Stage for Budget Fights
INFRASTRUCTURE
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Organizes for the 112th Congress
Senate Committee Opens SAFETEA-LU Reauthorization Debate, AGC Testifies
President Obama Calls for Infrastructure Investment in State of the Union Address
SAFETY
OSHA Withdraws Two Significant Proposed Rulemakings
TAX
Senators Introduce Bills to Repeal 1099 Paperwork Mandate, 3 Percent Withholding
BUDGET
State of the Union, Continuing Resolution, Debt Limit and Congressional Budget Office Report Offer Stage for Budget Fights
 

Just prior to President Obama’s State of the Union speech –where he called for increased federal investment in areas of our economy, including transportation infrastructure – the House of Representatives passed a resolution to “transition” non-security spending for FY 2011 to FY 2008 levels.  The good news is that they are no longer trying to reign in all spending immediately.  The bad news is that this will put pressure on Congress to cut spending immediately, including infrastructure.  

The House Republican plan at this point involves cutting the aggregate total spending down to FY 2008 levels, or about 5-15 percent below last year’s spending levels. There are no details yet on what or how much will actually be cut, and the full extent of those cuts on individual agencies and programs will not be known until the Appropriations Committee begins to divide up its FY 2011 spending allocation in the next few weeks.

Each year the federal government spends more than $100 billion on construction in about 75 programs. The first quarter of 2011 will offer a couple of opportunities for the cutting and spending factions to do battle, including when Congress votes to extend government spending for the second half of the fiscal year. Currently, the federal government is operating at FY 2010 levels under a continuing resolution that expires March 4. The extension of that spending bill to cover the entire fiscal year (ending September 30, 2011) will mark the first opportunity for Congress to actually cut federal spending.  The next opportunity will be as Congress considers raising the debt ceiling.  The Obama administration has said the U.S. could hit the $14.3 trillion debt level as soon as March 31, and they are pushing Congress to raise the limit soon. Republicans are pushing for spending cuts and spending caps to be added to any bill raising the federal debt limit; however the Obama administration has resisted making cuts on the debt limit bill.

The latest news to escalate the budget cut debate was theCongressional Budget Office’s (CBO) Economic and Budget Outlook over the next 10 years.  The report predicts that the U.S. debt is much worse than originally thought.  According to CBO, the 2011 deficit will be nearly $1.5 trillion up from the 2010 $1.3 trillion deficit.  The report also projected the unemployment rate would not fall below 9.2 percent in 2011 (currently 9.4 percent).  What all this adds up to is that Republicans will use the deficit number to push forward drastic cuts in spending while the Democrats will likely call for targeted cuts that don’t cut spending too quickly or deeply.

AGC is working to differentiate construction investment programs from other spending programs. We are urging Congress to maintain levels of capital investment necessary to support economic growth, job growth and improve international competitiveness.

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

INFRASTRUCTURE
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Organizes for the 112th Congress
 

Yesterday the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held their organizational meeting to approve the Committee rules and oversight plan, as well as subcommittee chairs, ranking members and membership assignments.  Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-W.V.)  pledged to continue running the Committee in a bipartisan manner.  The Chairman and Ranking Member also agreed on a proposed schedule where they would move the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization (which is on its 17th extension) before the Surface Transportation Reauthorization.  However, Chairman Mica has stated he would like to move the surface bill before the August recess.

The Committee also approved an Oversight Plan for the 112th Congress that includes, among other things, a list of highway, transit and water infrastructure objectives.  Many of the objectives are in line with AGC positions.  Specifically, the Committee intends to streamline project delivery, consolidate and eliminate some federal transportation programs, examine the federal role in transportation, and improve performance and accountability in surface transportation programs.

The Committee will also look to close the current funding gap in the Highway Trust Fund by continuing to determine the proper role innovative financing and private investment will play in financing projects.  In addition, the Committee will continue its efforts from last Congress to identify unobligated surface transportation funding, as well as conduct oversight on major highway and transit construction projects that have experienced significant cost overruns.

In terms of funding for water infrastructure, the Committee will conduct oversight of wastewater treatment and water pollution control funding issues, including levels and sources of funding and management of grant and loan programs; wastewater security; and infrastructure needs.  Innovative ways to finance water infrastructure projects will also be a priority of the Committee. 

AGC will work closely with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to ensure that their legislative and oversight agenda has a positive impact on the construction industry.

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

Senate Committee Opens SAFETEA-LU Reauthorization Debate, AGC Testifies
 

The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee began debate on reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU with a hearing Wednesday on “Transportation’s Role in Supporting Our Economy and Job Creation.”

Bill Dorey, former President of Granite Construction Co, represented AGC and joined AASHTO’s President Susan Martinovich, as well as a labor representative and a representative from the freight transportation industry, in discussing the need to enact a long term highway and transit bill soon. EPW Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) opened the hearing and said that short term extensions of the programs undermine efforts by state DOTs to address long term planning and she is committed to getting a well funded long term bill passed. Other Senators at the hearing concurred with that sentiment.

The witnesses all pointed out the unemployment situation in the construction industry and said that investments in transportation infrastructure creats jobs while addressing the country’s economic growth goals. Bill Dorey said he does not support federal spending just to create jobs but that, in the case of infrastructure investment, job creation is an additional benefit received from addressing pressing needs. Ranking Republican member Jim Inhofe (Okla.) said he has been identified as the number one conservative in the Senate, and believes in reducing government spending, but he supports infrastructure investment because of the long term returns it generates. He also said he wants the committee to focus on eliminating unnecessary programs and red tape to make better use of limited Highway Trust Fund revenues. Many of the Senators reported on the benefits that have accrued to their states as a result of federal transportation investment.

For more information, contact Brian Deery at (703) 837-5319 or deeryb@agc.org. Return to Top

President Obama Calls for Infrastructure Investment in State of the Union Address
 

While calling for a five year freeze in government spending in his State of the Union address, President Obama nevertheless also called for the need to invest in infrastructure. In discussing infrastructure he emphasized his goals of increased investment in high speed rail and high speed internet. He also called for highway and bridge investment as well calling for more private investment.

The president emphasized the stimulus funds that went to infrastructure when he said, “Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I'm proposing that we redouble these efforts. We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what's best for the economy, not politicians. Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car.”

The Administration is expected to present its recommendations for transportation reauthorization as part of its budget request in mid-February. In an address to the U.S. Conference of Mayors earlier in the week, U.S. DOT’s undersecretary for policy laid out some of the key themes that will be included in the administration's plan. They include support for high-speed rail and the administration's livability agenda, which seeks to foster communities that have densely-built housing mixed with office, retail and entertainment development, as well as an array of transportation alternatives to driving.

Read AGC’s statement in response to the State of the Union here.

For more information, contact Brian Deery at (703) 837-5319 or deeryb@agc.org. Return to Top

SAFETY
OSHA Withdraws Two Significant Proposed Rulemakings
 

In a series of surprise moves, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it had withdrawn two separate proposed rules that would have had the potential to significantly impact the construction industry.

On January 19, 2011, the agency announced it was withdrawing its proposed interpretation titled “Interpretation of OSHA’s Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise.”  The interpretation would have sought to clarify the term “feasible administrative or engineering controls” as used in OSHA’s noise standard.  The proposed interpretation was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 19, 2010.  AGC was prepared to submit comments, but the rule was withdrawn before AGC could formally comment. In lieu of the rulemaking, OSHA announced it would continue to address this issue by:

  • Conducting a thorough review of comments that have been submitted in response to the Federal Register notice and of any other information it receives on this issue.
  • Holding a stakeholder meeting on preventing occupational hearing loss to elicit the views of employers, workers, and noise control and public health professionals.
  • Consulting with experts from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Academy of Engineering.
  • Initiating a robust outreach and compliance assistance effort to provide enhanced technical information and guidance on the many inexpensive, effective engineering controls for dangerous noise levels.

On January 25, 2011, OSHA announced it had temporarily withdrawn its proposal to include a column for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) on employer injury and illness logs. The agency reportedly took this action to seek greater input from small businesses on the impact of the proposal and will do so through outreach in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy. While many employers are currently required to keep a record of workplace injuries and illnesses, including work-related MSDs, on the OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), the vast majority of small businesses are not required to keep such records. The proposed rule would require those employers already mandated to keep injury and illness records to begin recording MSDs and place a check mark in the new column for all MSDs. AGC is submitting comments expressing concerns that adding the requirement for recording MSDs could be misinterpreted and the data could be utilized by the agency to wrongly justify a sweeping new ergonomics rulemaking.

AGC will continue working with OSHA on these issues to ensure that construction workers are provided a safe and healthy working environment.

For more information, please contact Kevin Cannon at (703) 837-5410 or cannonk@agc.org. Return to Top

TAX
Senators Introduce Bills to Repeal 1099 Paperwork Mandate, 3 Percent Withholding
 

In the U.S. Senate Tuesday Senators introduced separate measures to repeal the Form 1099 paperwork mandate enacted in last year’s massive healthcare law, and to repeal the 3 percent withholding requirement on payments to government vendors.  Both provisions are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2012.

Included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was a provision that requires government, nonprofits, and businesses of all sizes to file Form 1099s with the IRS when goods or services purchased without a credit card from another business exceed $600 in a year.  The provision was passed to help identify businesses that are not reporting or underreporting income to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and to raise an estimated $17 billion to help pay for the healthcare bill.  However, the new requirement will be a tremendous burden on businesses, increasing their paperwork and compliance costs.

Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) Tuesday introduced legislation to repeal the 1099 paperwork mandate.  The bill, S. 72, the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act, is identical legislation to H.R. 4 introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) on January 12.  Similar legislation failed to pass in 2010 due to disagreements over whether and how the cost of the repeal would be offset.  Both the House and Senate bills do not include offsets; a different Senate bill, S. 18, also introduced this week by Senator Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) would be paid for with unobligated Recovery Act funds. 

On January 19, the House passed a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in its entirety, including the 1099 paperwork mandate.  Given that the Senate is unlikely to bring the bill up for a vote, the House has yet to schedule consideration of H.R. 4 or other standalone bill to repeal the 1099 paperwork mandate.

Two measures were also introduced in the Senate Tuesday to repeal the 3 percent withholding requirement on federal, state, and local government contracts.  S. 89, introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-La.), and S. 164, introduced by Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.).  Like S. 18, the bill introduced by Senator Brown would offset the roughly $11 billion cost to repeal the 3 percent withholding law by using unobligated Recovery Act funds.

AGC is requesting members us the Legislative Action Center to write their Senators and Representative in support of H.R. 4 and S. 72, to repeal the 1099 paperwork mandate, and S. 89, to repeal 3 percent withholding.  For more information on the 1099 reporting requirement and to write your Members of Congress, use the AGC Legislative Action Center by clicking here

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

AGC Townhouse, 53 D Street SE • Washington, DC 20003 • 202.547.1625 (phone) • 202.547.1635 (fax)• www.agc.org
AGC Home | About AGC | Advocacy | Industry Topics | Construction Markets | Programs & Events | Career Development | News & Media

To ensure delivery of AGC’s Construction Legislative Week in Review, please add 'communications@agc.org' to your email address book or Safe Sender List. If you are still having problems receiving our communications, visit our white-listing page for more details.

© Copyright The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America. All Rights Reserved.