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.

How FY09 Appropriations Are Shaping Up: ($ millions)
Program Enacted FY08 FY09 House comm. FY09 Senate comm.
Federal-aid highway obligation limit 40,216 40199s NA
Federal Transit Administration 9,491 10339s NA
FAA Airport Improvement Program grants 3,515 3515s NA
DOE defense environmental cleanup 5,349 5,297 5,771s
Corps of Engineers construction* 2,289 2,070 2,004s
Bureau of Reclamation water/related resources 950 888 1,080s
EPA water infrastructure 2,926 3151s NA
—Clean Water state revolving funds 689 850s NA
EPA Superfund 1,254 1284s NA
GSA construction 531 454 NA
GSA repairs/alterations 722 692 NA
Bureau of Prisons buildings and facilities 373 136 536
DOD family housing 1,026 1,425 NA
DOD base realignment and closure 7,531 9,539 NA
DOD other military construction 9,926 11,742 NA
VA major construction 1,069 923 NA

*Excludes FY 08 and 09 emergency supplemental spending
s=subcommittee action only, as of 7/8/08. NA=no action yet, as of 7/8/08
Sources: House, Senate Appropriations Committees

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.