Fiscal 2015 spending bills are starting to move on Capitol Hill, giving engineering and construction firms early signals about how much federal funding could be available for next year.
Initial numbers from the House Appropriations Committee are grim for military construction and bright for major Dept. of Veterans Affairs health-care construction projects.
The House panel is getting an early start—on April 9 it cleared the first two of the 12 fiscal 2015 spending measures it is to produce: military construction-veterans affairs and legislative branch.
The milcon-VA bill, which the committee approved on a unanimous voice vote, would slash Dept. of Defense construction 33%, to $6.6 billion. The Obama administration had proposed the same deep cut, though the House panel changed the mix of reductions among various DOD building categories.
Within the $6.6-billion total, Army construction would be slashed 52% to $526.4 million; Navy-Marine Corps construction would be trimmed 39%, to $998.8 million; and Air Force construction would take a 32% hit, to $719.6 million.
On the other hand, VA’s major projects account is a big winner in the House committee's bill, getting a 64% boost, to $561.8 million. That amount also is the same as the sum Obama proposed. Major projects are those valued at $10 million or more.
Of the total VA major-projects allotment, the largest items include $187.5 million for projects in San Diego. Among the projects are constructing a spinal cord injury building, a community living center and hospice nursing unit and a parking garage as well as a seismic retrofit of an existing spinal cord facility
The bill also allocates $101.9 million for work on VA facilities in Long Beach, Calif., including construction of a community living center, a mental health facility, parking structure and a heat and power plant. In a later, not-yet-funded phase, several older buildings rated as exceptionally high seismic risks would be demolished.
On the down side, however, VA’s minor construction projects program would be cut 35%, to $495.2 million, the same as the Obama request.
Over all, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) wants to act rapidly on spending bills this year. The panel’s markup was its earliest voting session since at least 1974, he told his colleagues.
Rogers said he wants to move all 12 bills through committee by the end of June and to see the House approve them by the start of the August recess.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has held many hearings on the 2015 bills but has yet to vote on any.
A major plus this year for appropriators in both houses of Congress is the two-year budget agreement enacted last Dec. 26, which set the overall “top line” caps for domestic discretionary programs, defense and nondefense for both 2014 and 2015
But the downside is that the budget agreement’s 2015 caps are only slightly higher than 2014’s. Thus, individual line items will be hard-pressed to win increases for 2015.