Firms that pursue Corps of Engineers work groaned after President Bush proposed a 14% cut in the 2006 civil works budget. Hopes rose when the House approved $414 million more than Bush did. Now, industry is smiling after Senate appropriators boosted the Corps by a further $552 million. "We were very pleased that the House went up, but the Senate is just phenomenal," says National Waterways Conference President Worth Hager. Figures won�t be final, however, until the full Senate votes and its numbers are reconciled with the House�s.
How 2006 Corps Budget Is Shaping Up
Bush proposal 2006 ||House 2006|| |
|Flood control, Mississippi River/tributaries||328||270||290||433|
|Total Corps Civil Works||5,040*||4,332||4,746||5,298|
*includes $372 million in emergency funds for hurricanes, other disasters |
**includes regulatory program, flood control and emergencies, general expenses, Office of Asst.Sec.
for Civil Works
Sources: House, Senate Appropriations Committees, ENR
That conference could be complicated by disputes between the chambers over Corps policies, including its use of "continuing contracts." If federal aid doesn�t cover project costs in a given year, a contractor can finance a portion of the work itself and seek reimbursement later from the Corps, plus interest, when Congress approves new funding. House appropriators have slammed such continuing contracts as "an unsound financial practice." But in the report with its 2006 bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee says the Corps is tightening controls over the contracts and expects them "to remain a generally available contracting tool for program execution."
The energy and water bill the Senate panel approved June 16 allots $5.3 billion to civil works, up 5% from 2005. That includes $2.1 billion for the construction account, a 13% jump. Another industry source says that in the current budget climate, "there are some other programs that are being treated much more severely than the Corps civil works program."
Big construction items in the Senate committee measure include: $90 million to dredge New York�s harbor; $85 million for Columbia River fish mitigation; $85 million for the Ohio River�s Olmsted Locks and Dam; $74 million for Marmet Lock on the Kanawha River; and $60 million for Missouri River fish and wildlife recovery.
On a related front, a House subcommittee June 16 approved a water resources authorization bill with an estimated $10 billion in Corps projects. The last Water Resources Development Act became law in December 2000. In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee cleared its version of a 2005 WRDA on April 13.
Energy: Senate Adds Tax Breaks, Renewables Standard
The provisions, passed on June 20, include $6.4 billion in breaks for conservation, energy efficiency, alternative fuels or hybrid, electric or alternative-fuel vehicles. Incentives include credits for building energy-efficient homes. A House bill has $8 billion in tax breaks and is less generous for energy efficiency.
The "renewable portfolio standard," approved June 16, requires utilities to tap sources such as solar or wind for 2.5% of power sold in 2008, 5% in 2012, 7.5% in 2016 and 10% in 2020.
TEA-21: Senate Offers $290 Billion
"We�re...optimistic that we�ll be able to have the legislation completed by the end of the month," Holbrook says. Extensions have kept aid flowing since the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century expired in 2003. The latest stopgap lapses June 30. David Bauer, American Road & Transportation Builders Association senior vice president, says the offer "demonstrates that the political process is working, but where this is going to end up I don�t think anybody can say with certainty."
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