Tell President/Congress to Stop Steel & Aluminum Tariffs
The President’s proposed 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum are likely to be damaging to YOUR construction market—public and private—in multiple ways. Contact the President, your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators right now, so they understand that steel and aluminum tariffs will hurt your construction business.
The Time for Infrastructure Investment is Now
Tell Congress to Pass an Infrastructure Bill
America needs an improved infrastructure system to remain prosperous and competitive. Contact your U.S. representative and U.S. senators to support the president’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan and signal that the time for infrastructure investment is now!
Support Repeal of the Prior Approval Requirement
Contact your U.S. House representative to urge them to support the repeal of the burdensome prior approval requirement for trade association PACs by co-sponsoring H.R. 2101 - the Prior Approval Reform Act.
Support Adoption of the Composite Plan Design
Ask your members of Congress to authorize Composite Plan Design for Multiemployer Pension Plans and distribute some of the risks associated with retirement plans more equally.
Tell Congress to Close the Skills Gap
The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act makes needed reforms to Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act programs. Contact your members of Congress & tell them to close the skills gap.
Oppose Government-Mandated PLAs
Ask your members of Congress to support fair and open competition on federal construction projects by prohibiting federal contracting agencies from mandating project labor agreements (PLAs).
Please scroll down for more information on AGC's Top Legislative & Regulatory Priorities
AGC'S POLICY PRIORITIES
AGC works with the Legislative Action Committee to set the legislative agenda every two years, to coincide with the start of each new congressional session. Issues are added or removed from the legislative agenda based on three factors: the top issues of importance for a majority of AGC members, the timeliness of each individual issue and the achievability of success.
Once the legislative agenda is set, AGC's government affairs subject matter experts create one-pagers to provide talking points for issues currently moving through the legislative or regulatory process. Subject matter experts focus on issue areas such as: infrastructure funding, labor, tax, federal procurement, environment and safety.
Combine Tax Reform with an Infrastructure Bill to Maximize Economic Impact
- Federal infrastructure spending programs that provide sustained investments have a positive impact on economic growth in the short- and long-term. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, on average, every dollar invested in infrastructure generates as much as $2.50 in incremental output. This is the highest multiplier among all other major spending programs or from tax cuts.
- Combining Comprehensive Tax Reform and Infrastructure Investment Is a Win for Our Economy. America’s aging infrastructure and uncompetitive tax code are significant barriers to job creation and economic growth. The United States has underinvested in our infrastructure for decades. In 2015 a mere 2/3 of one percent of GDP went towards infrastructure – the lowest levels in more than 50 years.
- Combining Comprehensive Tax Reform and Infrastructure Investment Makes Political Sense. Infrastructure enjoys bipartisan support and broad public support, and can help move a tax reform package through Congress. Policies such as repatriation, and increasing user fees and excise taxes also enjoy bipartisan support.
- Comprehensive Tax Reform and Infrastructure Investment Are Already Connected. Tax policy impacts funding for highways, transit systems, airports, waterways and other public works.
- The Administration’s Infrastructure Plan Does Not Fully Address Our Nation’s Infrastructure Needs. The FY 2018 budget request from the administration called for a ten-year $200 billion infrastructure plan. The plan falls significantly short of the $1 trillion investment promised but does provide an opportunity to be built upon by AGC’s recommended concepts for a tax reform and infrastructure package.
- Tax Reform Should Address Infrastructure Needs. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2016 Failure to Act report, there will be funding gap of $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years if we maintain current investment levels in surface transportation, water/wastewater, electricity, airports and inland waterways and ports.
Promote Long-Term Growth and Infrastructure Investment
- AGC’s members are engaged in all forms of non-residential construction and consist primarily of small businesses, with more than 70 percent organized as S-corporations.
- Reduce Tax Rates for Corporations and Pass-Through Businesses Simultaneously. The vast majority of construction firms are pass-through entities. Comprehensive tax reform should reduce tax rates on corporations and pass-through businesses alike. This includes the payroll taxes owed on reasonable compensation when distinguishing between business income and wage income for active business owners. If Congress can substantially reduce business tax rates, AGC will support eliminating tax preferences.
- Simplify the Tax Code.
- Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The AMT creates needless complexity and is a stealth tax increase on many construction businesses.
- Raise the Small Contractor Exemption From $10 million to $40 million. Section 460 of the Internal Revenue Code requires contractors with over $10 million in average annual gross to use the burdensome and costly percentage-of-completion method of accounting. Congress recognized this burden when it created the small contractor exemption in 1986, but failed to index the exemption to inflation.
- Increase the Availability of Cash Accounting. The cash method of accounting is a simplified method of accounting which only taxes business income when it is received, and deducts expenses when paid. Cash accounting is currently available to a limited number of businesses based on industry and entity type.
- Eliminate Look-back Rules for Long-Term Contracts. Look-back rules require a construction contractor to file amended tax returns for every prior year in which a currently completed contract was in progress. In most cases this is a waste of time and resources and, the same tax is typically paid.
- Promote Infrastructure Investment in the Tax Code.
- Cosponsor H.R. 960/S. 326, the “Public Buildings Renewal Act of 2016.” AGC supports the expansion of the private-activity bond (PAB) cap to include additional types of public infrastructure.
- Maintain Tax Exempt Status of Municipal Bonds. Municipal bonds financed $3.1 trillion in state and local infrastructure investment from 2007-2016.
- Oppose Efforts to Increase Estate Taxes. AGC supports full repeal of the estate tax. Barring full repeal, AGC supports the current parameters, with a $5 million exemption indexed to inflation, spousal transfer and stepped-up basis.
Environmental Permitting Issues
Support Reforms that Merge the NEPA Review and CWA 404 Process, Streamline Permitting, and Reform Citizen Suits
- The Current Permitting System is Staggeringly Inefficient. The average time to complete one Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, is five years (almost 1,700 days) and costs $6.6 million according to a National Association of Environmental Professionals review. An individual Clean Water Act Section 404 permit applicant spends an average of 788 days and $271,596 to obtain coverage, according to the Supreme Court in the Rapanos v. United States decision. A six- to seven-year delay in starting construction on public projects – as a result of these lengthy permitting processes – costs the nation more than $3.7 trillion in lost employment and economic gain, inefficiency, and needless pollution according to the Common Good report of 2015.
- Performing Sequential and Often Duplicative Environmental Reviews After the NEPA Record of Decision Results in Massive Schedule, Budget, and Legal Hurdles. Project proponents are being forced to repeat analyses and studies; mitigation and management planning; as well as interrelated “authorizations” (i.e., certifications, consultations, consistency determinations, etc.) – all before they can submit their permit applications and receive the necessary approvals to proceed with construction.
- Merge the NEPA Review Process and the Clean Water Act Section 404 Permitting Process. The NEPA review and the regulatory permitting processes must be coordinated and advanced concurrently, not sequentially. There must be timelines and deadlines for completing the environmental approvals needed for infrastructure work. Specifically, AGC supports a nationwide merger of the NEPA and CWA 404 permitting processes, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issuing a 404 permit at the end of the NEPA review based on the information generated by NEPA process. Data show these processes take the longest, are the costliest, and are subject to the most disagreements. To reduce duplication without reducing environmental protection, the monitoring, mitigation and other environmental planning work performed during the NEPA review must satisfy federal environmental permitting requirements (unless there is a material change in the project).
- A Reasonable and Measured Approach to Citizen Suit Reform Could Prevent Misuse of Environmental Laws. Legal challenges to the environmental approval process have caused the agencies to require permitting to be “litigation proof.” Congress should further shorten and standardize the statute of limitations for challenges to final NEPA decisions or claims seeking judicial review of an environmental permit, license or approval issued by a federal agency for an infrastructure project. Suits should also be limited to objective violations rather than subjective plans and legal fees should also be awarded if a project proponent prevails.
Rebuild the Construction Workforce and
Close the Skills Gap
- Reauthorize the Perkins Act:
- House: Thank you for passing H.R. 2353 in June 2017.
- Senate: Pass H.R. 2353 and Reauthorize the Perkins Act.
- Ensure that Executive Order 13801 Includes Construction
- Increase Student Access to Job Training Programs:
- House: Introduce and pass a House version of the JOBS Act and BUILDS Act.
- Senate: Pass the JOBS Act and BUILDS Act.
- Include Job Training in Any Infrastructure Package
- According to an industry-wide survey released by AGC in August 2017, seventy percent of construction firms report they are having a hard time filling hourly craft positions, which is the bulk of the construction workforce. Contractors also view the pipeline for recruiting and training new workers as broken. While many firms are changing the way they operate, recruit and compensate, the chronic labor shortages could have significant economic impacts absent greater investments in career and technical education.
- Support Career and Technical Education for Next Generation of Skilled Construction Workers through Perkins Act Reauthorization. The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, H.R. 2353 reforms and reauthorizes the Perkins Act, which helps offset the cost of career and technical education (CTE) programs. The reforms include better aligning education with local needs, promoting work-based learning, spurring industry-recognized credentials and providing modest funding increases.
- Support Increased Access and Funding For Apprenticeship Programs Without Regard to Union Affiliation. President Trump issued an Executive Order on June 15, which doubles federal apprenticeship funding to $200 million to be administered through existing programs with a goal of creating five million apprentices in the next five years. The Executive Order gives the private sector more input in designing programs; however, it is unclear whether the construction industry will be fully eligible for these programs. Many have interpreted language in the Order to exclude construction’s eligibility because of the perception that registered apprenticeships are already “effective and widespread” in the industry. While certain segments of the construction industry utilize the Labor Department’s registered apprenticeship program, not all do. Consequently, all segments of the construction industry should ultimately be able to benefit from the positive changes to the program as a result of the Executive Order.
- Increase Student Access to Job Training Programs and Non-Traditional Degrees. The JOBS Act, S.206 supports student access to federal funds for non-traditional four year degrees by authorizing Pell grants for short-term credentials as long as the program leads to a recognized post-secondary credential. The BUILDS Act, S. 1599 provides training grants for in-demand skills. This bill would allow employers to work with communities to ensure job training programs can fill necessary skill shortages. Additionally, AGC is calling on Congress to link job training with any infrastructure bill. Trainees should be allowed to use federal dollars to pay for training programs offered by employers who receive infrastructure contracts.
Support Adoption of the Composite Plan Design
- The Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 was modeled after the proposal, Solutions Not Bailouts, and includes many (but not all) of the proposed reforms. One reform not included was the creation of a plan option that is a hybrid between a defined contribution and a defined benefit plan, the composite plan.
- Composite Plans Offer Advantages Over Existing Plan Designs. Composite plans take the best features from each type of plan by combining the predictable costs of 401(k)-style defined contribution plans with the lifetime income features of traditional defined benefit plans. Composite plans provide for professional asset management and the pooling of risks.
- Mechanics of Composite Plans Ensure Fiscal Viability. The design creates a benefit formula to determine the retirement income each participant receives. A Board of Trustees consisting of both employee and employer representatives sets the plan’s provisions. Employers contribute based on bargaining agreements’ contribution rates with no liability outside the negotiated rate or withdrawal liability. The composite plan design would not eliminate legacy liabilities under existing defined benefit plans. Employers would continue to contribute to the pension trust where a portion of the contribution would pay down legacy costs and a portion would go towards the new composite plan.
- Composite Plans Improve Upon the Current Multiemployer Pension System. Composite plans project funding for 15 years to help guarantee solvency. A plan’s funding ratio must equal or exceed 120 percent. If the ratio falls below 120 percent, the plan is required to improve its projected funding level. The composite plan is a better alternative than a traditional defined benefit plan because the 120 percent funding cushion, emphasis on responsible funding policies, early intervention to address funding imbalances, and the ability to attract and retain contributing employers limit the chance of plan failure.
- Composite Plans Have Been Stress Tested and Have a Proven Track Record. The proposed composite plan model has been thoroughly reviewed and stress tested. Modeling shows that a composite plan would have survived a comparable 2008 financial crisis without causing undue harm to either contributing employers or participants. Additionally, the design is common practice throughout much of Canada, where they are highly successful with a growing employer base.
- The Combination of Composite Plans and Provisions in the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act Should Alleviate the Need for a PBGC Premium Increase. The PBGC has reported significant funding shortfalls of its multiemployer program. Defined benefit plans pay a yearly insurance premium to the PBGC on a per participant basis. Any future premium hikes should first consider the impact that the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act may have on large, insolvent plans. The ability for plans to take earlier, corrective action and increase premium revenue may be enough to put the PBGC on a better fiscal path.
One-Size-Fits-All Executive Order on Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors Does Not Fit the Construction Industry
- President Obama issued Executive Order 13706 that requires federal contractors and subcontractors to provide employees up to seven days of paid leave for sickness and other purposes annually. The subsequent FAR Council rule took effect on Jan. 1, 2017 and the requirements will be included in all future federal contractor solicitations.
- The E.O. Does not Account for the Project-Based, Transitory and Seasonal Aspects of Construction. Most craft workers, laborers and mechanics move from project to project or employer to employer, often within short periods of time. They may earn fluctuating rates of pay due to changes in project type, location or assigned tasks. They may also experience long periods of layoff due to seasonal weather or a downturn in the demand for construction. The Order requires that employers reinstate paid leave for employees rehired by the same employer or a successor employer within 12 months after job separation. However, in the transitory construction industry, knowing what constitutes “job separation” and what constitutes “reinstatement” is nearly impossible, particularly for union workers where employers obtain workers from hiring halls on an “as-needed” basis for the portion of a project that requires the skills of the workers’ particular trade.
- Legislators and Regulators Generally Recognize the Uniqueness of Construction in Broad-Based Policy Making. Congress and federal regulators have established many special rules for the industry to accommodate that uniqueness. State and municipal lawmakers have also recognized it in their adoption of paid leave laws, many of which expressly limit or exempt construction industry coverage.
- Prime Contractors are Liable for Subcontractor Violations for Which Primes Could Not Know About. The E.O. places liability upon prime and upper-tier contractors for violations by their subcontractors. However, determining whether a subcontractor is abiding by this Order is impossible for prime and upper-tier contractors. Given the carryover provisions of this Order, subcontractor violations can occur years after the relationship between subcontractor and prime contractor has ended.
- The E.O. Will Punish Innocent, Compliant Contractors for Violations of Bad Actors. Contracting officers can withhold payments to the prime contractor as necessary to pay employees the full amount owed. However, the prime contractor may not be the violator. Rather, a subcontractor could be. So, when a contracting officer withholds payment to a prime contractor for one subcontractor’s violation on a project involving 100 subcontractors, the compliant prime contractor and 99 compliant subcontractors will not receive payment for work they completed and their employees may not be paid.
Oppose All Efforts to Encourage the Use of Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements on Federal Construction Projects
- A government-mandated project labor agreement (PLA) requires contractors to negotiate a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project with one or more labor unions working on the project. PLAs typically restrict the majority of employment to those workers whom unions are willing to refer to the project. It can also create long-term obligations to union benefit plans. This discourages non-union companies, small companies, and other disadvantaged businesses from participating in these public contracting opportunities.
- AGC is Committed to Full and Open Competition for All Public Projects. The choice of whether to adopt a collective bargaining agreement should be left to the contractor-employers and their employees, and such a choice should not be imposed as a condition to competing for, or performing on, a publicly funded project. Government mandates and preferences for PLAs can restrain competition, drive up costs, cause delays, lead to jobsite disputes, and disrupt local collective bargaining. In cases where the use of a PLA would benefit a particular project, the contractors qualified to perform the work would be the first to recognize that fact and adopt a PLA voluntarily.
- Government-Mandated PLAs Can Limit the Number of Competitors on a Project. Government mandates for PLAs typically require contractors to make fundamental, and often costly, changes in the way they do business. For example, a PLA may require a contractor to recognize the local unions as the representatives of their employees on that job, use the union hiring hall to obtain workers, and pay into union-benefit and multiemployer pension plans that non-union employees will never be able to access, forcing non-signatory employers to pay twice for retirement and health care benefits. Such changes are impracticable for many contractors and subcontractors.
- There is No Evidence Proving that PLAs Will Improve the Economy or Efficiency of a Project. Case studies of the economic benefits of PLAs have had varying conclusions. The Government Accounting Office reported that it could not document the alleged benefits of past mandates for PLAs on federal projects and that it doubted such benefits could ever be documented due to the difficulty of finding projects similar enough to compare and the difficulty of conclusively demonstrating that performance differences were due to the PLA versus other factors.
Repeal Unneeded Regulations and Improve the Process for Making New Ones
- The chaotic patchwork of regulations layered on top of one another over many decades negatively impacts the construction industry. In 2016 alone, the Federal Register encompassed more than 80 volumes totaling 97,110 pages, where agencies issued 3,853 regulations. This exceeds the number of bills Congress passed by a factor of 18. While compliance is a cost of business, the business of construction contractors should be construction and not compliance. The more contractors spend on compliance and lawyers, the less money they have to hire new employees or retain existing ones.
- Thank You for Using the Congressional Review Act to Repeal Unneeded Regulations. AGC supported and Congress utilized the CRA to effectively repeal the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces (“Blacklisting”) Executive Order regulations and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “Volks Rule” that extended the statute of limitations on recordkeeping violations from six months to five and a half years, and did nothing to improve the safety or health of a company’s workers. Thank you.
- Allow Congress a Say in the Rulemaking Process. The power of regulatory agencies has swung too far. Congress needs additional checks on the rulemaking process. One such check should be congressional approval of major regulations—those with an economic impact above $100 million—before they go into effect. This is an essential component of the Regulations in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which AGC supports.
- Provide Transparency in the Federal Agency Guidance-Making Process. Federal regulators often skirt the rulemaking process by issuing guidance. Oftentimes, agency guidance has similar practical and legal impacts on contractors as notice-and-comment issued rules. However, federal agencies generally do not include the regulated community in the process of creating guidance and have no statutory guidelines for drafting it. The Regulatory Accountability Act will help provide a statutory framework for guidance-making.
- Ensure Rulemaking is Based in Facts. Ensure that regulations undergo thorough economic analysis, are based in sound science and/or substantial empirical data and are transparent in methods and goals. Too often, federal regulatory agencies will rely on outdated studies or cherry-picked data, instead of considering the broad spectrum of reliable and sound data and reports available. This often comes into play when agencies try to account for how much their regulations will cost contractors to comply. The Regulatory Accountability Act provides avenues whereby agencies must rely on sound information or face judicial review.
Repeal the Prior Approval Regulation Imposed on Corporate Member Trade Association Political Action Committees (PACs)
- The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 requires that corporate member trade association PACs obtain separate and specific written approval from member corporations before talking in depth about the PAC and/or soliciting their executive and/or administrative staff. Furthermore, the regulation states that a corporation may approve solicitations by only one trade association per calendar year.
- Requiring Trade Associations to Seek Prior Approval Is Inequitable. Trade association PACs are heavily regulated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). There is no “dark” undisclosed money. There are no “mega-donors,” because $5,000 is the maximum amount an individual can contribute in a calendar year. Yet, no other class of PAC – including corporate, labor union, and individual membership association PACs – is subject to the prior approval requirement.
- The First Amendment Rights of AGC Member Company Employees Are Restricted. Members of AGC have a Constitutional right to join together in support of or in opposition to candidates for political office. Requiring prior approval discourages our members from participating in the association’s PAC, and creates an unequal playing field that constrains our members’ First Amendment rights to free speech.
- The Requirement Creates Unnecessary Confusion for Thousands of AGC Member Companies. Individuals who are eligible to contribute to a trade association PAC are confused as to why their company must first grant permission for them to be solicited. Most often, AGC representatives have to repeatedly explain the arduous process.
- Companies that are members of multiple corporate trade associations are confused as to why they cannot allow their employees to be solicited by these groups. Per the regulation, prior approval can only be granted to one PAC in a calendar year. As a result, many are apprehensive to choose one PAC over another, and simply choose not to participate at all.
- Multiple individuals from the same company may participate in different trade associations, so they may not know who has granted authorization to which trade association in a given year.
Federal Procurement Issues
Support Reforms that Benefit the Government, Small Businesses and the Entire Construction Industry
- AGC co-founded the Construction Industry Procurement Coalition, a coalition of 15 construction organizations representing tens of thousands of firms and individuals engaged in all facets of construction, to promote common sense procurement reforms that benefit the government, taxpayers, small businesses and the entire industry.
- Such common sense, bipartisan reforms are currently included in the Construction Consensus Procurement Improvement Act of 2017, which would help restrict federal agencies from procuring construction services through reverse auctions and make the design-build construction process more competitive.
- Prohibit Federal Agencies from Procuring Construction Services through Reverse Auctions. Procuring design and construction services is different than procuring off-the-shelf, manufactured commodities. In 2004, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) determined that procuring design and construction services through reverse auctions “should be the very rare exception and not the rule—if used at all.”
- However, several federal agencies—the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Interior—continue to use reverse auctions for construction. GAO recently reported that federal agencies conducted over 3,600 single-bid reverse auctions.
- In reverse auctions, each bidder recognizes that he will have the option to provide successively lower bids as the auction progresses. Thus, a bidder has no incentive to offer its best price and subsequently may never offer its lowest price.
- Make the Design-Build Construction Process More Competitive by Limiting One-Step Design-Build Procurements. Many qualified design/construction teams—especially small businesses—cannot risk the high cost of producing complete design and engineering technical proposals and, consequently, do not compete. Reasonably limiting one-step, design-build competitions will help spur more design-build competition within the construction industry, leading to more innovative and better value proposals. This would reduce resources spent on reviewing unqualified proposals and increase competition by providing predictable business risks.
- Support Reform and Oversight of the Federal Change Order Review Process. Change orders are common on federal construction projects. Yet contractors increasingly are frustrated by the slow approval of and the resulting lack of payment for change orders. Increase transparency and require federal agencies to collect and report data regarding the administration of change orders, including the timeliness of action to encourage greater accountability.
Redevelop, Repurpose, and Modernize Excess Federal Buildings
The federal government is the nation’s largest owner of real property, with more than 254,000 buildings at an annual operating cost of $14.4 billion. In fiscal year 2010, there were 77,000 federal buildings—30 percent—listed as underutilized or vacant, costing taxpayers $1.66 billion annually in operation, maintenance and repair costs. Many of these properties can either be disposed of or redeveloped for more beneficial federal use. However, disposing federal real property is a costly and lengthy process.
- Disposing of Excess Federal Real Property Can Spur Billions of Dollars in New Construction Activity. The federal government’s excess and underutilized federal real property is often centrally located in large cities where they would be better utilized by the private sector. Redeveloping these properties can lead to billions of dollars in new construction activity.
- For example, GSA sold an abandoned heating plant in Washington, D.C., for $19.5 million that will be converted into high-end condominiums, requiring private construction work of more than $100 million.
- Disposing of Excess Federal Real Property Can Create Thousands of Construction Jobs. Redevelopment construction projects throughout the nation can lead to thousands of new jobs for skilled and unskilled labor, contractors, architects, engineers and the other professions involved in the industry.
- Disposing of Excess Federal Real Property Can Save Taxpayers. Since 2005, the General Services Administration has disposed of more than 300 of its own facilities, generating proceeds of more than $116 million. In FY 2014 alone, GSA partnered with other federal agencies to dispose of 342 federal facilities generating $42.7 million in proceeds.
- Disposing of Excess Federal Real Property Can Generate New Revenue For Local, State And Federal Governments. When these properties are transferred to the private sector for redevelopment, properties that were once tax exempt would now generate new revenue through property taxes and development and construction fees.
- Disposing of Excess Federal Real Property Can Allow Facilities to be Used for the Public Benefit. The former Leso-Leano U.S. Army Reserve Center (USARC) in Watertown, NY, was transferred to the Watertown City School District via a Public Benefit Conveyance for educational use. Greenville Site “A” Transmitting Station was conveyed to Beaufort County, NC, as a 100 percent public conveyance for park and recreation purposes.