Congressional appropriators are picking up the pace, seeking to clear as many of the 12 individual fiscal 2009 spending bills as possible for floor action. But odds are that no more than a few of the measures will be enacted before FY 2009 starts on Oct. 1. That means most key construction accounts probably will be funded by stopgap continuing resolutions, or CRs. Many probably will end up being folded into a massive omnibus bill.
As of July 8, none of the 12 measures had passed the House or Senate. The House Appropriations Committee had approved five; the Senate committee expected to have six done by July 10. Early numbers show gains for military construction, with a big jump for base realignment and closure funds (see table). Other areas have had mixed results.
House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) says Democrats hope to finish some of the individual bills, but adds, “It depends on the attitude of the White House and the Republican minority.” Larry Bory, HDR vice president for federal government relations, says, “I think that there’s going to be an attempt to get some of these bills ready, just in case there’s a window with the White House.”
House Appropriations’ top Republican, Jerry Lewis (Calif.), is skeptical. “My guess is that we could find ourselves unfortunately with a pretty sizable CR,” he says. If he’s right, most construction accounts will be funded at 2008 levels, maybe for months. Final numbers may not come until after January, when a new administration and Congress come in.
Construction officials have seen this story before. Most 2008 spending bills were packaged in an omnibus that wasn’t enacted until Dec. 26, nearly three months into the fiscal year. Fiscal 2007 funding wasn’t settled until Feb. 15, 2008, four and a half months late.