|(Photo by Guy Lawrence for ENR)|
Following the Money
After a burst of activity before the congressional recess, only two of the dozen appropriations bills for fiscal year 2006 remain to be wrapped up: defense and Labor-Health and Human Services. Line items of most construction interest include DOD environmental restoration in the defense bill and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, within the Labor-HHS measure.
Appropriators didn't act before the Thanksgiving break on President Bush's proposal to transfer $17 billion in unspent Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to other agencies, with a focus on infrastructure work. Appropriators are expected to approve Bush's plan, though they may make some changes. That approval is likely to come as an attachment to the FY 2006 DOD or Labor-HHS appropriations bill. There is some serious construction money at stake: The White House is proposing to shift $2.3 billion from FEMA to the Federal Highway Administration for road and bridge reconstruction in the Gulf States; $1.6 billion to the Corps of Engineers, mostly for rebuilding levees and dredging waterways in Louisiana; and $1.1 billion to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs for work on VA medical buildings in Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans.
The House and Senate will have to work out differences between their budget reconciliation measures. One of those differences deals with opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas drilling. The Senate budget legislation assumes about $2.5 billion in revenue from new energy exploration in a portion of the refuge; House GOP leaders deleted a similar ANWR provision from that chamber's budget bill before it got to the floor. The fight over ANWR has been waged for years, and pits energy companies and their allies on Capitol Hill against environmentalists and their congressional friends.
There are some senior positions open at federal construction agencies. At the Federal Highway Administration, there is no word yet on a permanent replacement for former Administrator Mary Peters, who left the agency at the end of July. She's now with HDR in Phoenix as the firm's national director for transportation policy and consulting. Richard Capka has been serving as acting administrator. The Federal Transit Administration's top job is vacant, following Administrator Jennifer Dorn's move to the World Bank as U.S. alternate executive director. FTA Chief Counsel David Horner is the agency's acting deputy administrator. At the General Services Administration, there's no word yet on the job of Chief Architect. That post has been open since Edward Feiner retired from the agency early this year and joined Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP.hen Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break--the House is due back on Dec. 5 and the Senate on Dec. 12--lawmakers still have some key construction-related issues to complete. Here's what they are looking at: