AGC's Construction Legislative Week in Review - 12/09/2010 (Plain Text Version)
Senate to Begin Debate on Deal to Extend Bush-Era Tax Cuts, House Threatens Not to Consider In Its Current Form
Following two failed votes in the U.S. Senate Saturday to extend the Bush-era tax cuts only for the middle-class or those making less than $1 million a year, the White House and GOP Congressional leadership Monday struck a deal to extend current tax rates for all taxpayers for another two years with economic stimulus provisions sought by the president. The Senate is expected to begin consideration of the package as early as today, setting the stage for a potential procedure vote on Saturday, however House Speaker Pelosi today indicated that she would not bring up the bill for a vote in its current form.
The deal includes extensions of other current tax measures, the Republicans’ preferred estate tax rate, a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits, and a one-year reduction in employee payroll taxes for Social Security. In addition, the agreement allows for 100 percent expensing for businesses in 2011, applied retroactively to September 8, 2010, and 50 percent in 2012.
AGC supports the package and will be urging all members of Congress to vote for the bill. The vote on the bill may be counted on our legislative scorecard as a “Key Vote.”
While Republicans are largely on board with the deal and are expected to vote for it, the White House has been working this week to win over Democratic leadership and rank-and-file members who continue to express concerns with tax cuts for the wealthy and a more generous estate tax rate. Still, although a few issues remain unresolved, such as extensions of other already-expired tax measures, no significant changes to the deal are likely at this time.
AGC, however, continues to push for an extension of the Build America Bonds program and removal of water infrastructure investment from the state volume caps for the Private Activity Bond program. Removal of water and wastewater projects from the Congressionally-mandated cap on their volume would free up private money to act as an additional alternative financing mechanism for water infrastructure construction.
Although not described in the White House’s fact sheet on the agreement and a source of Democratic fury over the proposal, the White House did agree to set the estate tax rate at 35 percent and exemption levels at $5 million for singles and $10 million for couples through 2013.
For more information, contact Karen Lapsevic at 202-547-4733 or email@example.com.
House Passes Year-Long Continuing Resolution, Awaits Senate Action
Surface Transportation and Aviation Authorization Extensions Included in CR
On Wednesday, the House passed (212-206) a nearly $1.1 trillion continuing resolution (CR) for the remainder of fiscal year 2011. Almost all of the appropriations would be extended at the funding level and under the conditions they were for fiscal year 2010. The legislation now heads over to the Senate, where it is expected Democrats will attempt to replace the CR with an omnibus bill that would include all 12 appropriations bills, as well as earmarks, which the House-passed CR does not include. At this point it is unclear if Senate Democrats have the 60 votes necessary to overcome a likely Republican filibuster and replace the CR with an earmark-laden omnibus.
The House CR extends all Highway Trust Fund programs through the end of FY 2011 at FY 2010 levels. Specifically, the CR would provide a total of $52.38 billion for highways and transit through FY 2011. AGC has learned that the Senate is in agreement on the length of the House-passed extension and it is likely that Congress’ end- of-session spending package will include a long-term extension of the surface transportation authorization.
AGC and other transportation stakeholders have been advocating for a long-term extension to provide the transportation construction industry a degree of certainty for the 2011 construction season. The CR also includes the 17th extension of the long overdue FAA authorization bill. This most current extension would fund federal aviation programs through FY 2011.
Senate Fails to Advance AGC-Supported Measure to Protect 9/11 Contractors
Today, the Senate failed to move forward on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. This bill would provide health benefits for 9/11 workers and 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. Today’s Senate vote is partially attributed to Republican Caucus’ pledge to filibuster any legislation not addressing the much-needed work on tax extensions. There were also concerns regarding the cost of the bill.
House Attempts to Move AGC-Opposed Mine Safety Bill Forward
On Wednesday, the Democratic leadership in the House made an attempt to push forward a mine safety bill. Under the procedure they chose to pursue, supporters would have needed two-thirds of the House to approve the bill and were unable to meet that threshold.
The Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act had originally included AGC-opposed OSHA reform. Although the OSHA provisions were stripped from the bill, AGC opposed the bill because it would implement radical restructuring of the relationship between the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and its regulated employers.
AGC strongly supports worksite safety. However, this legislation would establish a broad enforcement regime for the entire industry as well as other connected industries by establishing precedent on how the government and employers interact. Under this bill, employers would face harsh penalties without the benefit of legal due process rights and greatly increase penalties, including interest penalties, should a company challenge a citation.
If there is time before Congress adjourns for the year, the House may try to bring the bill back up under regular procedures and it may pass. It is uncertain as to whether the Senate would act on this bill.