TAUC Legislative & Regulatory Update, July 2021
Discussions over infrastructure and investment policy continue to dominate legislative activity in Washington. While President Biden and a bipartisan group of senators agreed on a broad framework for infrastructure legislation, both the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction over federal surface transportation programs have been moving forward legislation through regular order this year. These discussions should lead to increased public investment in infrastructure and have a significant impact on the construction market in the future.
Here is an exclusive update from TAUC on policy and regulatory issues of vital interest to contractors and the union construction and maintenance industry.
After months of negotiations, a bipartisan group of Senators reached an agreement with President Biden last week. The White House announced support for a two-page framework calling for $579 billion in additional infrastructure spending above current investment levels. This agreement only contains topline funding numbers, without any of the underlying policy provisions or specific details on how the funding will be invested. Here is the outline of the agreement:
Transportation $312 billion total
Other Infrastructure $266 billion total
This agreement is an important step in this program of finalizing infrastructure investment, but it only provides a broad framework. The details of the programs funded under the agreement will have to be developed by the committees with jurisdiction over various aspect of the plan. The Senate Bipartisan Group has broken up into groups to working with committees in drafting the legislative package to implement the agreement.
FAST Act Reauthorization
As of this point, it is not clear if a multiyear surface reauthorization legislation will pass as a stand-alone measure or as part of the larger infrastructure package. The current programs expire on September 30th of this year. Given the uncertainty, Congressional committees with jurisdiction over federal surface transportation programs have begun their work on legislative packages.
The House of Representatives has passed H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act, a five-year, $547 billion reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs. The legislation includes:
During floor consideration, the surface bill was combined with reauthorization for Federal wastewater and drinking water programs to bring the total investment approved by the House to $759 billion. It is not clear what happens to this package next with ongoing efforts to advance surface transportation legislation in the Senate and the broader bipartisan infrastructure agreement.
In the Senate, the EPW Committee unanimously approved its portion of the Senate surface transportation reauthorization package — providing $303 billion in investments for the Federal aid highway program — a 34 percent increase from the last reauthorization. The Commerce Committee also approved a portion of the bill, providing a total of $78 billion in rail, multimodal and freight programs. The Banking Committee will also have to develop the public transportation portion of the surface transportation package prior to consideration of the package on the Senate floor.
It has been rumored that the Senate will be considering infrastructure legislation in some form on the floor beginning in July.
Prevailing Wage Amendment Defeated in Senate
TAUC and its partners in the Construction Employers of America (CEA) were successful in defeating an effort to remove application of prevailing wage coverage to taxpayer subsidies for construction of domestic semiconductor manufacturing facilities authorized under the Endless Frontier Act. The amendment, offered by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), was defeated by a vote of 42-58. Eight Republicans voted with all Democrats to reject the amendment. We anticipate similar efforts to remove Davis-Bacon coverage during consideration of infrastructure and energy legislation, particularly as it related to tax related investment vehicles.