After battling with President Bush for weeks over federal spending, congressional Democrats pared an earlier proposal and produced a $515.7-billion fiscal 2008 funding package for non-Defense agencies. The huge bill, which the House passed on Dec. 17 by a 253-154 vote, has $107.3 billion for 69 construction accounts, up $4.2 billion, or 4%, from enacted 2007 levels, according to Karen Bachman, Associated General Contractors’ government affairs director for environment, federal markets and procurement. But the gains are concentrated in highways and defense base closure and construction. At press time, the deal was not final: the White House vowed a veto unless the Senate adds $70 billion for the Iraq war.

Highways are a bright spot in the bill, with a 5% rise in the obligation limit, including a $1-billion boost to upgrade bridges, a response to the Aug. 1 Minnesota bridge collapse. There also is a separate $195 million to replace the fallen bridge. David Bauer, senior vice president for government affairs at the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, calls the transportation levels “very positive, given the nature of how the debate has unfolded.”

(in $ millions)


Federal-aid highways obligation limit 39,086 41,216** 5
Federal Transit Administration 9,010 9,500 5
FAA Airport Improvement Program grants 3,515 3,515 0
DOE defense environmental cleanup 5,732 5,399 -6
Corps of Engineers construction 2,336 2,294 -2
Bureau of Reclamation water/related resources 879 950 8
EPA water infrastructure 3,213 2,973 -7
including Clean Water State Revolving Funds 1,084 700 -35
EPA Superfund 1,235 1,274 3
GSA construction 792 531 -33
GSA repairs and alterations 861 722 -16
State Dept. embassy security,      
construction and maintenance 1,490 1,437 -4
Bureau of Prisons buildings and facilities 432 373 -14
DOD military family housing 2,043 1,094 -46
DOD base realignment and closure 5,626 7,236 29
DOD other military construction 7,660 9,970 30
* Spending levels contained FY 07 joint resolution. **Includes $1 billion for bridges nationwide. Spending totals are rounded
Source: House Appropriations Committee, Text of H.r. 2764 as amended

As Bush took a tough line on spending, Democrats cut about $22 billion from what they had sought, says Cathy Connor, senior vice president for government affairs at Parsons Brinckerhoff. But she adds, “Transportation programs survive more or less unscathed. I mean, those are good numbers.”

But Steve Hall, American Council of Engineering Companies’ vice president for government affairs, says “the water funding is a huge disappointment,” with aid to Clean Water state revolving funds slashed 35%. The cut will have “a pretty immediate impact” on projects, says Adam Krantz, managing director for government and public affairs at the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.