A partisan fight over the House GOP-written fiscal 2013 budget has escalated as Election Day nears. President Obama attacked the bill as "so far to the right it makes the Contract With America look like the New Deal." House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the bill's architect, fired back, saying Obama's budget plans were "reckless" and that the president "chose to duck and run" on the economy.
The budget resolution, passed by the House on March 29 by a 228-191 vote, is non-binding and seen as having no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But the budget will affect key House construction bills. Brian Deery, head of the Associated General Contractors highway and transportation division, says, "From the House leadership's point of view, this is their blue-print for spending. … Legislation that goes through the House will be judged by what's contained in that budget resolution."
The plan would cut 2013 non-defense discretionary spending deeper than does the 2011 Budget Control Act. The budget doesn't specify line-item funding but has cuts in broad categories. Transportation aid would be cut 36%, to $31.5 billion, and the natural resources-environment sector would be cut 10%, to $3.5 billion. The budget will guide House appropriators as they set funds for each program.
Pat Sinicropi, National Association of Clean Water Agencies legislative affairs director, says, "I think it's fair to assume that these proposed cuts will have an impact on funding for water-related construction programs, especially … the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs, which will ultimately mean fewer water-related construction projects will be financed." The Senate will chart its own appropriations path; final figures will hinge on talks with the House.
The House budget also may affect the chamber's highway-transit authorization. Deery says the 2013 budget is more flexible than last year's because spending is not as tightly tied to taxes flowing into the weakened Highway Trust Fund.