As the House Appropriations Committee moves on fiscal 2012 spending bills, its Republican leaders are ycarrying out their budget-cutting pledge. They aren't sparing construction programs. The thin silver lining is that some of the House's recommended construction cuts are small.

For example, a bill funding military and Veterans Affairs construction, which the House passed on June 14, would trim most accounts. Base realignment and closure spending would plummet, but that was expected, because the closure round that began in 2005 is nearing an end. Andrew Goldberg, American Institute of Architects senior director of federal programs, says, “The problem, and nobody could have foreseen this in '05, is that the wind-down is hitting at a point when the construction [market] is still incredibly soft.” He says, “I think right now everybody is really kind of scratching their heads and saying, 'Where are the projects going to come from?'”

A spending bill covering energy and water programs, which the House committee cleared on June 15, would pare the U.S. Corps of Engineers' regular civil-works appropriations 2%. But lawmakers adopted an amendment adding $1 billion in emergency aid for the Corps to repair flood and storm damage. Counting emergency money, civil-works funding would rise 19% from 2011.

John Doyle, special counsel with law and lobbying firm Jones Walker, says, “From a Corps perspective, it's a very positive development.” But appropriators offset the Corps' additional $1 billion by slicing an equal amount from unobligated high-speed rail funding.

The 2012 appropriations debate is far from over. House votes on bills funding other construction programs, such as transportation, will come later this summer. Senate lawmakers have taken no action yet on any 2012 spending measures. Jeffrey Shoaf, Associated General Contractors senior executive director for government affairs, says, “They've not telegraphed where they're going.”

Final spending figures may hinge on White House-Senate-House negotiations on raising the debt limit and slicing the federal budget deficit. Shoaf says, “That seems to be driving all the decision-making on spending and taxes this year.”

Doyle says, “All of this probably results in a continuing resolution at the end of September, with these funding issues yet again being postponed ... in terms of final resolution until the end of the calendar year.”

Program ($ millions) FY 2012House FY 2011Enacted % Change
DOD base realignment and closure 482 2,482 -81
DOD family housing construction 373 357 +4
DOD other military construction 11,489 11,933 -4
VA major construction 590 1,076 -45
DOE defense environmental cleanup 4,938C 4,980 -1
Corps civil works (regular appropriations) 4,768C* 4,857 -2
Bureau of Reclamation water/related resources 822C 912 -10
Note: Amounts are rounded, *Excludes $1,029 million in emergency funding for 2011 storm and flood damage repair, C: approved by committee, no floor vote as of 6/20/11 Source: House Appropriations Committee