New President, New Congress, New Challenges and New Opportunities
Among the issues likely to be in-play during the next Congressional session are an economic stimulus package immigration reform project labor agreements union card check legislation and greenhouse gas legislation. AGC of America has created a webpage to give members a comprehensive look at the battles that lie ahead. Click AGCs 111th Congress Resource Center and click the link to New President New Congress New Threats and Opportunities.
The construction economy supports the American economy said AGC of America CEO Stephen E. Sandherr. In the next administration AGC will focus on targeted spending initiatives as it works in support of construction priorities that will boost the overall economy and create jobs.
AGCs chief economist Ken Simonson forecasts a potentially long slide in construction spending. AGC would like to see that slide reversed with a significant injection of construction stimulus spending. Construction is an economic catalyst with more than $1 trillion worth of construction put in place last year (about 8.4% of GDP) employing 7.3 million people and providing strong careers for entrepreneurs.
AGC looks forward to bipartisan work on pensions immigration and long term programs to invest in Americas infrastructure such as the transportation reauthorization clean water infrastructure and investment in federal buildings Sandherr said. With strong democratic majorities in both the House and Senate AGC will work to show the impact of tax health care and labor issues on the businesses that are members of the AGC.
In a conference call with members Sandherr and AGC of Americas chief lobbyist Jeff Shoaf detailed some of these issues and indicated that with the significant exception of its support for infrastructure investment the association will spend much time playing defense in the next Congressional session.
Below is a recap of some of the upcoming issues; for more detail visit the AGC Congress Resource Center linked above.
• Infrastructure: 2009 will hopefully be the year Congress realizes the economic benefits of increased investment in infrastructure. Major bills that need to be considered are surface transportation reauthorization FAA reauthorization another Water Resources Development Act and investment in water infrastructure. Democrats have historically made more funding available for infrastructure but with caveats such as Davis-Bacon provisions increasing the use of Project-Labor Agreements and funding for union training programs only.
• Taxes: The current tax structure is expected to undergo major changes beginning in 2010. If Congress fails to address the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts businesses could face increases in the marginal and capital gains tax rates and restoration of the death tax to a 55 percent rate. Increased Democrat majorities will make permanent extension of Bush tax cuts nearly impossible but momentum to reform the Death Tax will gain traction because of the pending deadline. A major concern is the 3 percent withholding tax on government contracts which Congress must repeal before January 1 2011.
• Labor and Immigration: The top priority for Democrats will be passage of Card Check. The bill will easily pass the House and increased majorities in the Senate will make passage a real possibility. Congress may address immigration reform with the Presidential Election in the rear view mirror. Congress must again extend the E-Verify program in March 2009 and it is possible that it will serve as the springboard for broader reform. Other concerns include a revival of ergonomics increased OSHA enforcement and oversight that will lead to less cooperation with the industry and a change in the definition of supervisors in an effort to strengthen unionization.
• Energy and Environment: Expect more attention to mandates on energy conservation and in particular legislation to regulate and control greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors of the economy through emission caps and increased permitting. There may also be an effort to apply the California Air Resources Board (CARB) mandates for diesel equipment nationwide. The House will likely continue to pursue amending the Clean Water Act to define navigable waters broadly requiring contractors to obtain permits in more circumstances.