Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org July 7, 2011
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On the Inside
Highlights in This Week’s Issue
GRASSROOTS ACTION
Campaign to Repeal 3 Percent Withholding
BUDGET
White House, Congressional Leaders Continue Debt Limit and Deficit Reduction Negotiations
TRANSPORTATION
House T&I Committee Chairman Announces Transportation Reauthorization Proposal
Senate to Pursue Two-Year Transportation Bill at Current Funding Level — Chairman Boxer Compares Senate to Anticipated House Levels
EVENTS
Mark Your Calendar – Highway and Utilities Contractors Issues Meeting November 10-12, 2011
Highlights in This Week’s Issue
 

AGC, its Chapters and its members continues to pressure Congress to repeal the 3 percent withholding tax. The House and Senate are close to introducing multi-year transportation reauthorization bills; contact with your Congressional Delegation is needed. The debt ceiling debate remains at a standstill.  Return to Top

GRASSROOTS ACTION
Campaign to Repeal 3 Percent Withholding
 

Momentum continues to build in Congress to repeal the three percent withholding tax, and AGC members and the construction industry have been at the forefront of the repeal campaign. Last week, AGC sent out individualized state-by-state updates to our members.  These updates named legislators in members’ states that have not yet cosponsored three percent repeal legislation and encouraged members to take action and contact their representatives.


The legislation in the House and Senate continues to attract cosponsors, with 176 and 26 in the House and Senate, respectively.  However, no additional cosponsors were added in either the House or Senate this week.  Contact your representatives and encourage them to cosponsor the repeal of the three percent withholding tax. 


The legislation has broad bipartisan support, with 129 Republican cosponsors and 47 Democratic cosponsors in the House. However, there are 98 Representatives who supported the bill in previous years but have yet to do so this Congress, which makes increased grassroots activity important.


The time for congressional action is ticking, so we hope every AGC member will encourage their employees and colleagues to contact Congress as well. AGC has provided the tools necessary to quickly and efficiently communicate with Congress.


The number of Chapters and members that have been helpful in contacting Congress is growing, and we would like to highlight their activity in upcoming newsletters. Please share your stories with us and complete our survey.


Watch this video to learn more about the 3 percent withholding rule from AGC's Jeff Shoaf.


For more information, please contact Jeff Shoaf at (202) 547-3350 or
shoafj@agc.org Return to Top

BUDGET
White House, Congressional Leaders Continue Debt Limit and Deficit Reduction Negotiations
 

The White House and congressional leaders continue to meet behind closed doors to negotiate deficit reduction and budgetary reform as part of a package to increase our nation’s debt ceiling.  Republicans and Democrats have not reached an agreement on a number of issues; however, both sides believed the meeting today was a positive starting point, but remain fairly tight-lipped about the talks, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who held a closed-door meeting with the House Republican Conference.  Speaker Boehner told his colleagues he would not discuss the meetings, but reaffirmed his commitment to keep tax hikes “off the table.”   House and Senate leaders will continue to work through the weekend and meet with the President again on Sunday to further negotiations.

A deal needs to be reached by August 2, which is when the Department of Treasury says the U.S. will default on its loans.  President Obama has softened his stance on changes to Social Security over the last few weeks in an effort to reach an agreement with Republicans.  The President is considering options to cut as much as $4 trillion in government spending over the next 10 to 12 years, including changes to Medicare and Social Security.

In return, he is insisting Republicans agree to revenue increases.  Publicly, Republican leaders have held firm on not supporting any tax increases.  Speaker Boehner reportedly did acknowledge that revenue increases could be part of an agreement, but not tax increases.  It is unclear what those revenue increases would be, but it does not appear at this point closing gas and oil tax breaks or other loopholes is on the table for Republicans.

Even if a deal is reached, congressional Republicans and Democrats must sell the package to their rank-and-file members who will determine its’ fate when they vote on a final package.

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

TRANSPORTATION
House T&I Committee Chairman Announces Transportation Reauthorization Proposal
 

House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), was joined by his subcommittee chairs and a group of other leading Republican committee members at a briefing today to present the outline for a surface transportation reauthorization proposal. Chairman Mica said the actual bill language will be released soon, pending discussions between his staff and democratic committee staff, and that a hearing may be held on the bill as early as Tuesday, July 12. Beyond that, no timeline was spelled out.

Mica said that he is constrained by the rules of the House to limit authorized funding to levels that can be supported by Highway Trust Fund revenue. He also said that he and other committee members will be sending a letter to the Ways and Means Committee, which has responsibility for the revenue portion of the bill, with their ideas about how to address the revenue needs. Mica said the main thrust of his legislation is doing more with less. He intends to reform and consolidate the current program and streamline the project approval process to speed projects moving forward.

While AGC is concerned with the level of funding outlined by Chairman Mica, many of the recommendations we provided to the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee are included in the proposal, including programmatic reform, environmental streamlining, and expedited project delivery.  A copy of AGC’s statement on the proposal can be found here.

The outline of the proposal follows:

Funding

  • Authorizes $230 billion of funding over six years for the highway, transit and safety programs.
  • Annual funding will be set at levels that current Highway Trust Fund revenue will support (30-35 percent below current funding level).

Maximizing Existing Revenue

  • Capitalization funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) will be increased to $1 billion per year.
  • States would be allowed to toll new capacity on interstates (existing lanes would remain toll free).
  • States could use up to 15 percent of their federal formula funds to capitalize State Infrastructure Banks (up from the current 10 percent).
  • Improvements would be made in the Rail Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program to expedite approval of loans and loan guarantees.

Streamlining Project Delivery

  • Condenses final environmental impact statement.
  • Provides single environmental decision review process.
  • Excludes projects in existing right of way from environmental review.
  • Allows for earlier right of way acquisition.
  • Encourages corridor preservation.
  • Allows for detailed project design prior to final environmental approval.

Highway Program Reform

  • Consolidates or eliminates 40 programs and funding categories.
  • More than 90 percent of Federal-aid Highway funds will be distributed through formula giving States
  • More flexibility in determining spending priority decisions.
  • More than half of the Federal-aid Highway funding is directed to funding projects that are part of the National Highway System.

Transit Program Reform

  • Encourages and rewards public-private partnerships for building new rail transit systems.
  • Streamlines the New Starts and Small Starts competitive grant program, cutting project development time in half.
  • Creates incentives for higher ridership by incorporating performance factors in funding apportionment formulas.

Democrats Blast Proposal

Following the briefing by Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-W.V.) was joined by a group of fellow T&I Committee democrats at a follow-up briefing where they expressed disappointment at the funding levels that will be included in the Mica proposal and at the process that has been followed in drafting the bill.  Congressman Rahall said he is concerned that the drop in highway and transit funding will have a harmful impact on construction employment and on the economic recovery. He expressed his hope that as the process moves forward the committee can work in a more bipartisan fashion.

AGC will continue to work closely with both the House and Senate as their respective reauthorization bills make their way through the legislative process.

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

Senate to Pursue Two-Year Transportation Bill at Current Funding Level — Chairman Boxer Compares Senate to Anticipated House Levels
 

In a news conference on Wednesday, July 6, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that her Committee would seek to pass a two-year surface transportation reauthorization bill; instead of a six-year bill that she had previously said was her goal. Boxer said the bill will maintain current funding levels while adjusting for inflation, authorizing $109 billion over two years. Acknowledging that current Highway Trust Fund revenue will not support this level of investment, Boxer said that roughly $6 billion a year in supplemental revenue must be identified to support this proposal. She stopped short of calling for a gas tax increase and said that any funding decisions were ultimately up to the Finance Committee. Calling her bill "modest," Boxer said a two-year bill would be easier to both pay for and pass in the current fiscal climate and that the need for the extra infrastructure spending was necessary to boost the economic recovery.

During the press conference, Chairwoman Boxer also released a chart comparing her proposed state-by-state highway funding levels with the funding levels that would be possible under the House-passed budget resolution.

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

EVENTS
Mark Your Calendar – Highway and Utilities Contractors Issues Meeting November 10-12, 2011
 

The premier event of the year for contractors involved in highway, bridge and utility construction is scheduled for November 10-12, 2011 in the Palm Springs Valley of California. The Highway and Utilities Contractors Issues Meeting will address the many issues that will be impacting your business over the next year and in years to come. Topics that will be addressed include:

  • Congressional outlook for highway and water authorization legislation
  • Federal highway and water infrastructure funding
  • Successful efforts to increase state highway funding
  • Responding to Labor Compliance Audits
  • EPA’s new storm water regulations practical strategies to comply
  • Project Case Studies
  • Are Veteran’s Business Preferences on the horizon?
  • Contractor’s View Working as part of a Public-Private-Partnership
  • Other Recent Developments

Date:            November 10-12, 2011
Where:        Indian Wells, California
Hotel:           Miramonte Resort and Spa
Schedule:   The meeting begins with a shotgun start of the golf tournament at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 10 and concludes at noon on Saturday November 12.

Registration will go live in the next two weeks.

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

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