By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA

The House and Senate this week approved legislation that will keep federal programs and agencies operating until Dec. 16 to allow congressional leaders additional time to reach an agreement on a package that will fund all discretionary activities for the remainder of FY 2016.  This is the second “continuing resolution” since the new fiscal year began Oct. 1.  The $2 billion increase in highway investment and $1.1 billion public transportation boost provided by the recently enacted Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act will not go into effect until Congress sets the final funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation and other agencies.

Proving once again that advocacy is a never-ending job in the Nation’s Capital, some members of Congress are also attempting to include provisions in the legislation that would change one of the Federal Reserve-related revenue generating mechanisms included in the FAST Act to support increased highway and transit investment.  The banking industry is upset that the highway/transit reauthorization law reduces the dividend large banks receive on their deposits in the Federal Reserve System.  Representatives Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) are reportedly authoring a letter signed by around 30 House Republicans to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) saying, among other things, they will vote for a government-wide funding bill if the Fed dividend provision is softened.  The maneuver is not expected to succeed and Ryan has already conceded he is going to need a large number of Democratic votes for the funding bill to offset GOP defections.

Lawmakers are also attempting to include an extension of a broad array of tax breaks that are scheduled to expire at the end of this year as part of the package.  In the past, such tax extenders have included reinstatement of the 50 percent bonus depreciation and higher Section 179 small business expensing levels.  ARTBA joined 27 other national construction associations in a Nov. 24 letter to the bicameral, bipartisan congressional leadership urging them to extend these capital investment incentives for at least 2015 and 2016.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told his colleagues shortly before the interim measure passed the House, “This continuing resolution is very short and limited in scope—simply buying us enough time to wrap up our negotiations and bring a full-year bill to the floor without a lapse in important government services.”

The two chambers are expected to adjourn for the year shortly-after completing work on this broad fiscal package.  We will keep you apprised as negotiations on this measure continue.