March 2009: Government Affairs

Words: Dan KamysMarch 2009

MCAA Legislative Committee Update

During the MCAA Convention, held at World of Concrete/World of Masonry in Las Vegas last month, the MCAA Legislative Committee heard from our governmental affairs team about a number of pressing issues that Congress may consider this year. Among the hot topics were a discussion over the stimulus legislation (H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009); the alternative minimum tax, estate tax, and 3% withholding tax; immigration reform; military construction and life-cycle costing; E-Verify; energy policy; and school construction.

The Legislative Committee also received an election recap and a strategic overview of the new political dynamic in the House and Senate. Given the election results, it appears the Senate will have much influence over Administration and House policy, and will earn their title as “the deliberative body.” It is important to note that the new Senate class includes proponents of economic development through improved infrastructure. When paired with such pro-business stalwarts as Sen. Ben Nelson, and an increased Congressional appetite for infrastructure spending, the MCAA may have many opportunities to fight for job creation.

Members of the MCAA PAC Board also spent an evening with former Congressman Jon Porter of Nevada. The congressman presented his thoughts on the current Congress, as well as legislative insight and ways to impact issues of concern to small business and infrastructure. Mr. Porter stressed the need to be active at both the state and federal levels by getting to know your legislators and educating them about your company and industry.

Shortly after the conference ended, both the House and Senate passed H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the economic stimulus plan. Highlights of note in the final agreement sent to President Obama’s desk include the following:

  • $787.2 billion in overall cost
  • 1-year patch of the AMT (for 2009)
  • $37.5 billion in spending on energy programs, largely aimed at upgrading the nation’s electric grid, boosting energy efficiency in buildings, expanding renewable energy sources, and researching so-called “clean coal” technology
  • $4.5 billion for energy-efficiency upgrades to federal buildings and $5 billion for home weatherization
  • $4 billion for a sewer and wastewater infrastructure fund and $2 billion for drinking-water infrastructure
  • $39.5 billion directed to shore up local school budgets that could be used for school modernization projects
  • $22 billion in qualified school construction bonds over two years
  • The Defense Department would receive $6.5 billion, about two-thirds of which would be dedicated to modernizing health centers and other facilities
  • The department would receive $2.3 billion to build and renovate quality-of-life facilities, such as housing for military families, hospitals and child care centers
  • The Veterans Affairs Department would receive $1.2 billion to build and renovate medical facilities and national cemeteries
  • Highways and bridges would receive $27.5 billion
  • Public transportation would get $8.4 billion
  • Aviation would receive $1.3 billion
  • Other rail investments, including Amtrak and intercity rail, would receive about $1.3 billion
  • “Making Work Pay” tax credit is largely intact, but somewhat smaller than originally envisioned. Instead of income tax credits to offset payroll taxes of $500 per person and $1,000 per married couple, the amounts were cut to $400 and $800, respectively
  • The net operating-loss carry back provision was limited to small businesses with gross receipts of $15 million or less.

What does this mean moving forward? Many Senators agreed that a “tax bill” would move later this Congress, which could include estate tax relief. Additionally, Congress soon will begin the annual appropriations process, allocating funding for federal agencies and projects, such as buildings, transportation and infrastructure, and defense programs. A number of major legislation, such as the defense appropriations and authorization bills, the highway bill, and aviation bill, are expected to move through Congress this year.

Given the flurry of legislative activity at this point in the year and bold agendas from the Administration and Congress, the MCAA must be vigilant in identifying opportunities. If the industry can show how they are protecting and adding jobs to the economy, and acting in an environmentally friendly or “green” manner, the MCAA can have much more influence in shaping legislation beneficial to our industry and organization.

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