The General Services Administration got more bad budget news on June 23 when the House Appropriations Committee provided no funds in fiscal year 2012 for the agency's account that funds construction of new federal buildings.
It's the second blow to GSA's construction program since Republicans took control of the House this year, pledging to trim non-defense spending. The first punch came in a stopgap spending measure enacted in March, which zeroed out GSA new construction funding for fiscal 2011.
The 2011 cut was proposed by the House and the Senate agreed to it.
A follow-up continuing resolution, enacted on April 15, softened the blow, but only a little, providing GSA $82 million for new construction this year. But that was less than 10% of the amount the Obama administration requested for that account.
Why are Republican budget-cutters going after GSA construction? Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing GSA's budget, said at the committee's June 23 voting session: "Before new space is added to the federal inventory, the Executive Branch should make use of its existing space."
Committee Democrats spoke out against the GSA reduction, saying that it probably would lead to the loss of 16,000 construction jobs in the private sector. Democrats didn't offer any amendments to try to undo the GSA cut, but they probably lacked the votes to get such an amendment through the committee.
The Obama administration requested $839.6 million in fiscal 2012 for GSA new construction. That includes $370 million for five land ports of entry in four states; and $217.7 million for a group of projects connected to a new Dept. of Homeland Security. headquarters complex in Washington, D.C.
The House committee didn't wipe out GSA's separate budget account that funds renovations, recommending $280 million for fiscal 2012. Still, that's a far cry from the administration's $868.9-million request.
Construction industry groups are hoping for better GSA numbers when appropriators in the Democratic-controlled Senate take up their fiscal 2012 measure funding the agency.
(Corrects final FY 2011 funding allocation for GSA new construction, reflecting later continuing resolution.)