By Tom Ichniowski for Engineering News-Record
A $1.1T spending package that is headed to the White House for President Obama’s expected signature, would fund most federal agencies through the rest of fiscal year 2015, and hold key construction programs at or near their 2014 levels. A major exception is military construction, which would suffer a deep cut.
The huge bill, which the Senate approved 56-40 on Dec. 13 during an unusual late-night Saturday session, is mostly an omnibus measure to keep all agencies operating, including their construction programs, through next Sept. 30—except the Dept. of Homeland Security.
The Senate’s approval is the final congressional action on the measure. The House had passed it late on Dec. 11 on a tight 219-206 vote. Obama is expected to sign it soon.
Along with the CRomnibus’s $1.1T in appropriations, it contains an amendment that puts in place substantial changes in policies for multiemployer pension plans, which cover more than 3 million unionized construction workers, retires and beneficiaries.
Among important construction accounts, the new bill freezes the federal highway obligation limit at $40.3B, the same as its 2014 mark. It’s also the 2015 level set in the current highway-transit authorization law, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.
Pete Ruane, American Road & Transportation Builders Association president and CEO, says of the new bill’s highway figure, “No one can be satisfied with a static program.”
He adds, “On the other hand, given what’s going on with the budget overall, I think one has to be satisfied with the fact that there were no big cuts, as there have been several times over the last half-dozen years.”
Stephen Sandherr, Associated General Contractors of America CEO, agrees. “At least we’re dealing with a baseline…that’s not diminished,” he says.
Ruane also says ARTBA is convinced that the new bill’s steady funding is a sign that Congress is ready to tackle the larger issue of surface transportation funding by mid-May 2015.
That includes filling a $16B short-term “hole” in the Highway Trust Fund, which would prevent a severe cut in the highway and transit programs.
Read more at Engineering News-Record