The House and Senate have approved a $388.4-billion fiscal 2005 spending package that wraps together all of the unfinished appropriations measures. The huge measure sets the funding for many major construction programs, including federal-aid highways, wastewater treatment grants, federal courthouses and veterans' hospitals. On Nov. 20, the House approved the legislation by a 344-51 vote and the Senate passed it 65-30.

The best news for construction in the package is a $1.6-billion increase for the federal highway program. One major disappointment is a $350-million cutback in the Environmental Protection Agency's water infrastructure account.

House Chairman Young Says bill is ‘lean and clean'

House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) said the legislation is "a lean and clean package that adheres to the budgetary limits agreed to by the congress and the President." To squeeze the measure into the White House-desired overall discretionary spending target of $821.9 billion, House and Senate appropriators imposed an across-the-board cut of 0.83% on the figures they had agreed to.

(All numbers that follow include the across-the-board reduction and are based on summaries from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.)

Among key construction programs, federal-aid highways obligation ceiling of $35.2 billion, up about $1.6 billion from 2004. The budget for the Federal Transit Administration was set at $7.64 billion, a 5% increase from last year. At the Federal Aviation Administration, Airport Improvement Program grants were pegged at $3.47 billion for 2005, up $89 million from 2004.

At the Environmental Protection Agency, the water infrastructure account, State and Tribal Assistance Grants, will be cut by about $350 million, to $3.57 billion. Superfund will get about $1.3 billion, approximately the same as 2004's mark.

The Corps of Engineers' civil works program receives $4.66 billion, about $86 million more than in fiscal 2004. The Bureau of Reclamation is allotted $992 million, up some $40 million from last year.

(Photo courtesy of House Appropriations Committee)