In its current session, Congress faces deadlines on key appropriations, surface transportation, aviation and tax measures. Construction officials would love to see lawmakers pass multi-year transportation and aviation bills, but they say further stopgaps are likely.
The first deadline applies to a continuing resolution (CR) that keeps appropriations flowing through Dec. 3. American Highway Users Alliance President Greg Cohen says an omnibus spending bill is in the works, but adds, “I think that that will be very difficult. … If they have to go to a CR, then it’ll probably be extended … at least until January 31 or later.”
The next key date is Dec. 31, when a surface-transportation stopgap lapses. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials continues to push for a long-term bill, says Jack Basso, director of program management and finance, “but it just seems like it’s too much of a lift to be able to do this in this short span of time.” Cohen says, “I don’t think we have any chance of getting a [multiyear] highway bill this year.”
If Congress instead pursues a new stopgap, Basso says, “We’d like to see it … extended long enough for us to be able to make decisions about the spring construction season and to deal with big capital projects.” Cohen foresees a six- to eight-month bill, which would provide some program stability and “a sense of urgency” to act on a long-term bill.
Also expiring on Dec. 31 is the latest of 16 aviation extensions for programs such as construction grants. The Airports Council International-North America is lobbying hard for a multiyear bill with a higher passenger-facility-charge cap, says Jane Calderwood, vice president for government and political affairs. If Congress passes a new stopgap, she says, “I’m hoping it’s at least a year’s extension.”
The biggest fight probably will be over extending tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 that lapse on Dec. 31. Republicans want all the cuts for individuals extended; Democrats favor extending breaks only for those earning up to $250,000 a year.
Also expiring on Dec. 31 are $35 billion in other tax breaks for individuals and businesses. The Associated Builders and Contractors backs extending such items as the research tax credit, says Ashley Fingarson, director of legislative affairs. But she says things could stall if lawmakers seek to offset the extensions by such moves as hiking taxes on S corporations.
Build America Bonds lapse on Dec. 31. States and localities have flocked to the bonds because a federal subsidy cuts the interest rates by 35%. “It’s been a godsend,” Basso says. “We are really, really anxious to see it extended.”