House Committees Move Forward with Reconciliation Legislation

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This month,  the House of Representatives began the process of writing their proposed $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package following passage of a budget resolution in August.  Along with of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the reconciliation package marks a critical step in President Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda.  Unlike the bipartisan IIJA, however, debate over reconciliation has fallen largely along party lines.

The Natural Resources Committee, Science, Space and Technology, and Education and Labor Committees completed their markups last week, while the Transportation and Infrastructure, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means Committees completed their work this week.  The work done by these six committees produced several key policy provisions which will be of particular importance to ASCE and the civil engineering field.

These provisions include:

Transportation and Infrastructure

  • $4 billion for surface transportation projects that reduce greenhouse emissions. This includes $50 million for the Federal Highway Administration to establish a greenhouse gas performance measure, $950 million for grants to incentivize states to move toward reducing emissions or achieving net-zero surface transportation emissions by 2050.
  • $500 million for FEMA hazard mitigation revolving loan fund programs. These programs were authorized under the Safeguarding Tomorrow Through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act to offer low interest loans for communities to implement pre-disaster mitigation projects and strengthen infrastructure in the face of increasingly severe weather events. Passage of the STORM Act was a top priority for ASCE in 2020.
  • $2 billion for sewer overflow and stormwater reuse projects. This provision also provides greater assistance to low-income communities by increasing the federal cost share for projects in these communities.
  • $2.5 billion for port infrastructure grants to reduce port congestion, support offshore wind development, enhance supply chain resilience, and reduce the environmental footprint of the nation’s ports.

Natural Resources

  • $225 million for climate resilience and restoration. It also provides $1billion for tribal climate resilience and adaptation programs.
  • $900 million for wildfire management. These funds will allow the Bureau of Land Management to implement fire risk mitigation and preparedness programs, conduct research, and improve fire facilities.  The committee also provided $100 million for tribal wildfire management.
  • $100 million to fund mitigation activities for weather events brought on by climate change. These funds will allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make improvements to public lands to increase the resiliency of habitats and infrastructure to stand up to increasingly severe changes in weather and reduce the damage they cause.

Energy and Commerce ($456 billion)

  • $30 billion for lead service line replacement projects. The committee also specifies that these funds can not be used for partial replacement of service lines, nor may they be used leverage for issuing bonds.
  • $150 billion to establish Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP). This program will provide grants to energy suppliers based on the amount of clean energy provided to customers.
  • $13.5 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure. These funds will support the development of vehicle charging networks, and support states in developing clean transportation plans.
  • $9 billion for development of a $21st Century energy grid. These funds will support grants for transmission projects, construction and modernizing of grid infrastructure, and offshore wind projects.

Science, Space, and Technology

  • $11 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF).
  • $4.2 billion for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • $4.4 billion for the National Aerospace and Space Administration (NASA), with $4 billion set aside for NASA infrastructure improvements, and $388 million for climate change projects.
  • $12.7 billion for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, with funds being focused on renewable energy research and projects.
  • $4.2 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with funds going towards new equipment and climate change research.

Ways and Means

  • Puts in place new tolls for infrastructure bond financing to incentivize project investments. These include restoring tax-free status to advance refunding bonds allowing state and local governments to refinance debts at lower interest rates.  Additionally, private activity bonds used to finance water and sewage projects would be exempt form annual issuance caps.
  • Strengthens incentives for clean energy technology investments by extending the production and investment tax credits for most facilities, including wind and solar.

Education and Labor

  • $111 billion for higher education programs, which includes providing two years of tuition-free community college, increasing the value of Pell Grants, grant programs to train new teachers, and targeted investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and other minority serving institutions.
  • $82 billion for public school infrastructure projects.

The House has largely completed its work writing its reconciliation package, however the Senate has yet to schedule its committee markups.  While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has pledged to bring IIJA to the floor for a final vote by September 27, timing for consideration of a final reconciliation package remains fluid.

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