Construction Legislative Week in Review
www.agc.org June 21, 2012
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On the Inside
WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
House Interior/Environment Appropriations Subcommittee Bill Drastically Cuts Clean Water SRF
TRANSPORTATION
Conferees Close to a Deal on Highway Bill
House Committee Moves Transportation Funding Bill
TAX
AGC and Coalition Send Letter Warning of Fiscal Cliff
ECONOMICS
AGC Testifies for Integrity of Key Statistics
FEDERAL
House Republicans Press GSA to Dispose of Unneeded Federal Buildings
House Panel Approves GSA Construction Funding—More for Repairs, Not New Construction
AGC PAC
AGC’s Nebraska Building Chapter & Nebraska Chapter Present National PAC Check to Senate Candidate Deb Fischer
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WATER INFRASTRUCTURE
House Interior/Environment Appropriations Subcommittee Bill Drastically Cuts Clean Water SRF
 

This week, the House Interior/Environment Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its FY 2013 funding legislation for the Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which also contains the funding for EPA’s State Revolving Funds (SRF) for clean water and drinking water infrastructure.


As AGC reported earlier in the year, the president’s budget for the SRFs requested only $1.18 billion in its FY 2013 budget for the Clean Water SRF, which represents a cut of nearly 20 percent. Similarly, the Administration’s FY 2013 proposal for the Drinking Water SRF is $850 million, a cut of $69 million, or approximately 7 percent as compared to FY 2012. Prior to the Subcommittee markup, AGC joined other groups in the design and construction industry to send a letter calling for funding levels of at least $1.47 billion for the Clean Water SRF and $919 million for the Drinking Water SRF, which would return the programs to FY 2012 funding levels.

However, the funding legislation calls for only $689 million for the Clean Water SRF, a nearly 54 percent cut. The bill also specifies a funding level of $829 million for the Drinking Water SRF, a 10 percent cut. This represents an overall cut to the SRFs of $870 million or 36 percent. The bill now moves to be considered by the full committee, and ultimately by the full House. However, due to the contentious nature of the bill, there is a strong possibility that it may be rolled together with other contentious appropriations legislation in an omnibus bill later this year, much like it was last year. AGC will continue to follow and report on this legislation and advocate for increases to the SRF accounts.

View the legislative language here.

For more information, contact Scott Berry at (703) 837-5321 or berrys@agc.org. Return to Top

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TRANSPORTATION
Conferees Close to a Deal on Highway Bill
 

The House and Senate are moving closer to a deal on the highway and bridge portions of the surface transportation reauthorization bill.  This afternoon, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) issued a joint statement saying, “the conferees have moved forward a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a highway reauthorization bill.”  This announcement follows an intense week of negotiations between the House and Senate on how to resolve the major policy differences in the highway portion of the surface transportation bill.  It is believed that the agreement reached deals with project delivery, environmental streamlining, transportation program consolidation and transportation enhancements.

This turn of events in the conference negotiations comes on the heels of the AGC-led Transportation Construction Coalition’s (TCC) radio ad campaign. The TCC targeted the districts of four representatives on the conference committee, encouraging the conferees to complete their work and pass a bill.  In addition, AGC and other transportation stakeholders have consistently communicated with conferees encouraging the two sides to find common ground and negotiate a final bill.

Today’s news represents a giant step forward, but more work lies ahead before the bill can be finalized.  The announcement today does not necessarily cover mass transit, highway safety, or rail portions of the bill, nor does it cover issues outside the transportation field, specifically Keystone XL pipeline and coal ash.  Conceivably, these issues must be resolved prior to a vote on the conference report.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said today that he is hopeful a conference report on the bill can be passed by both the House and Senate next week. He also added that House Republicans are still prepared to move a short-term extension if necessary.

AGC encourages our chapters and members to continue contacting their Member of Congress and tell them to complete their work and pass a transportation reauthorization bill.  For more information, go to www.agc.org/roads.

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

House Committee Moves Transportation Funding Bill
 

This week, while conferees were attempting to reauthorize federal transportation programs, the House Appropriations Committee approved funding for transportation programs for FY 2013.

The legislation funds the Federal-aid highway program at $39.14 billion, the same level as the current fiscal year, but down 4.7 percent from the FY 2011 level.  The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) New Starts program was decreased by over $100 million, to 1.817 billion. However, this is an increase over the FY 2011 level. FTA’s transit formula grants program is maintained at this year’s level of $8.361 billion (down slightly from FY 2011).

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airport Improvement Program funding is set at $3.35 billion, a reduction of 4.7 percent from FY 2011. However, this is the level that was approved in the recently enacted FAA authorization legislation and in the Senate FY 2013 Transportation Appropriation bill.

The House provided no funding for TIGER grant program.  TIGER received a $500 million appropriation in FY 2012 and the Senate FY 2013 bill provided $500 million for the program. 

No funds were provided for the Federal Rail Administration High-Speed Rail program; however, residual funding still remains from the $10 billion provided for this program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The ARRA funds are still available through FY 2016.

Amtrak’s capital improvement program is funded at $1.452 billion, an increase over FY 2012 of $500 million.

The appropriations bill is scheduled to be considered on the House floor next week.

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

TAX
AGC and Coalition Send Letter Warning of Fiscal Cliff
 

This week AGC and other members of the Tax Relief Coalition sent a letter to all members of the House and Senate warning of the economic impact of the impending “fiscal cliff” that would impose about $600 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases on the economy in 2013.  The Coalition is urging Congress and the Administration to move quickly to avoid this crisis by extending current fiscal policy – including the expiring and expired tax provisions – and making critical and necessary reforms to our tax and entitlement systems their highest priority in the next Congress. The House is expected to vote next month on legislation to extend expiring tax provisions.

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

ECONOMICS
AGC Testifies for Integrity of Key Statistics
 

AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson testified on June 20 to a Joint Economic Committee hearing on the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Economic Census.  AGC uses information from both sources in state fact sheets that show the role of construction in the economy and the share of small business in each state’s construction industry.

The ACS is a questionnaire that the Census Bureau sends each month to a small but scientifically selected random sample of households. The ACS replaced the “long form” of the decennial census and provides much more timely information with greater accuracy and lower cost. The Economic Census, which the Census Bureau has conducted every five years for decades, covers the full range of industries with sector-specific questionnaires and provides a benchmark on the scope of each industry, which is the basis for many other statistics.

The House voted in May, in a floor amendment to the FY 2013 Commerce appropriations bill, to repeal the penalty for not answering ACS questions, eliminate funding for the ACS, and cut funding needed to conduct the census scheduled for early 2013. Sponsors of the amendments asserted that the cuts would save money in FY 2013, eliminate duplication of information that could be provided by the private sector, and end coercive federal snooping into personal information.

Testifying on behalf of AGC and the National Association for Business Economics, the professional organization for which he is the 2011-12 vice president, Simonson said the value to a wide range of business, research and governmental users of the information far outweighed the budgetary cost. Making responses voluntary would greatly reduce the accuracy and/or timeliness of the information produced and would require greater expenditure to achieve adequate coverage or replace the data.  He added that private data suppliers regarding construction starts cover only about half the spending reported by the Census Bureau and that elimination in recent years of a Census survey on residential improvements led to a loss of accuracy – not replacement – by a private data producer.

The Senate has not acted on its version of the 2013 Commerce appropriations bill. Even if the Senate does not adopt the restrictions approved by the House, the outcome is likely to depend on what is included in an end-of-year omnibus bill covering many agencies. Provisions such as these may be retained unless Senators and Representatives hear opposition from constituents.

For more about the benefit of the ACS and Economic Census to construction, talking points and a sample letter to Congress, contact Ken Simonson, simonsonk@agc.org or 703-837-5313. Return to Top

FEDERAL
House Republicans Press GSA to Dispose of Unneeded Federal Buildings
 

On June 19, House Republicans took aim at the pace of the Obama administration’s effort to sell underutilized federal government properties. Holding a field hearing at a General Services Administration (GSA) owned heating plant in Washington, D.C.’s historic Georgetown, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) said the agency was not moving quickly enough to dispose of unused properties in its portfolio.

The two-acre Georgetown property sat empty for over a decade at a cost of $3.5 million to taxpayers. GSA put the property on the market three weeks ago.  However, Flavio Peres, GSA’s deputy assistant commissioner for real property utilization and disposal, noted that of the federal government’s 893,381 buildings and structures, GSA controls 9,476 or about 12.3 percent. Of the 14,000 properties listed as unnecessary, Peres said that only 124 are GSA-controlled. Twenty-four federal agencies have their own landholding authority, such as the departments of Defense, Veteran’s Affairs, and Interior.

The hearings are part of an effort to push for enactment of Denham’s Civilian Property Realignment Act (H.R. 1734), which passed the House in February, but remains stalled in the Senate. If enacted, the bill could help the government raise an estimated $15 billion from property sales and lead to significant new construction projects throughout the country. AGC supported passage of the House bill and continues to press for passage of its Senate counterpart, S. 2232, sponsored by Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

For more information, please contact Jimmy Christianson at 703-837-5325 or christiansonj@agc.org. Return to Top

House Panel Approves GSA Construction Funding—More for Repairs, Not New Construction
 

On June 20, the House Appropriations Committee approved a funding measure that would provide $50 million for the General Services Administration’s (GSA) construction account—the same as FY 2012 levels, but $6 million below the president’s budget request. This account funds the project cost of design, construction and management of new federal GSA facilities.

Additionally, the House panel’s funding measure provides $395 million for the repairs and alterations account – $115 million more than FY2012, but $99.7 million less than the president’s request. Aside from repairs, this account provides funding for the modernization of existing federal real estate assets.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its version of the GSA funding bill, which provided $56 million for the construction account and $514.7 million for the repairs and alterations account. AGC will fight for the Senate’s funding measure when a conference committee convenes, or if Congress decides to fund the government through an omnibus measure.

For more information, please contact Jimmy Christianson at 703-837-5325 or christiansonj@agc.org. Return to Top

AGC PAC
AGC’s Nebraska Building Chapter & Nebraska Chapter Present National PAC Check to Senate Candidate Deb Fischer
 

In June, representatives from the Nebraska Building Chapter and the Nebraska Chapter met with U.S. Senate candidate Deb Fischer (R) to present her with an AGC PAC check. Fischer is challenging former Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey (D) for the open seat, which became available when current Sen. Ben Nelson (D) decided not to seek re-election.  At this time, the race is rated as a likely Republican pick-up.


As a state senator, Fischer has been supportive of the association’s priorities.  In 2011, she sponsored the Build Nebraska Act, which was signed into law and provides for a portion of the existing sales tax generated dollars to be used for road construction. 


Members in picture left to right: Chris Kingery, Dick Ludwig, Dan Vokoun, Deb Fischer, Mark Benjamin, Katie Wilson and Tyler Chicoine.


For more information, please contact David Ashinoff at (202) 547-5013 or
ashinoffd@agc.org. Return to Top

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