Fiscal 2014 Spending Bill Has a Mix of Construction Hikes and Cuts

A $1-trillion compromise spending package to fund federal agencies through Sept. 30 provides welcome increases over enacted 2013 levels for some construction programs but cuts others.

The next steps for the bill, which the appropriations committees' chairs—Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.)—released late on Jan. 13, are House and Senate floor votes. Quick passage is expected.

In the key transportation sector, the new bill boosts the federal-aid highway obligation limit by $557 million, to $40.3 billion, tracking the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act level.

The measure provides $600 million for Transportation Dept. TIGER grants, up $101 million from 2013, and freezes Airport Improvement Program construction grants at $3.35 billion. Cathy Connor, Parsons Brinckerhoff senior vice president, says, "Clearly, the TIGER program is a big winner and continues to be an extremely popular program in Congress."

Also scoring an increase is the Army Corps of Engineers civil-works program, whose spending rises from 2013 by 10%, to $5.5 billion. (The comparison excludes 2013 emergency spending for post-Sandy repairs.)

The General Services Administration fares well, with $506 million for construction, far above 2013's $50 million. The bill does pare some projects' amounts from levels President Obama sought.

Environmental Protection Agency aid for clean-water state revolving funds (SRFs) gets $1.45 billion and drinking-water SRFs receives $907 million. That puts both at about their 2103 levels. Adam Krantz, National Association of Clean Water Agencies managing director of government affairs, says, "Pretty much, we're looking at even figures and maintaining the SRF as a key program."

On the down side, military construction was sliced about 8%, to $9 billion.

The measure stays within the $1.012-trillion spending cap worked out by budget committee chairs Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

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