Government and Policy Update

Budget Debate in Harrisburg


This is the third monthly edition of our ASCE Philadelphia Chapter’s Government Relations Report. This month, ASCE is focused on:

1. PA Budget – Believe it or not, we were just discussing the 2017-2018 PA budget last month – and now we are one month away from the beginning of the 2018-19 budget discussions. To recap:

On the last week in October 2017, after four months with no budget and lots of contentious discussion, the PA House and Senate finally approved a $2.2 million revenue package that plugged the budget gap. Revenues will come mostly from $1.5 billion in borrowing, $300 million in yet-to-be-identified multiple internal fund transfers, and a major expansion for small casinos across PA, which will generate $238.5 million. Many have called these measures a “jumble”.

So, on the positive side, state higher education was funded – Penn State, Temple and other can now breathe easier. On the negative side, we all need to keep an eye on these proposed internal transfers, which might still move funding away from programs such as brownfields, state parks, and transit; many state agencies are still woefully underfunded; and there’s no long-term budget solution.

For more information, please refer to these links:

- http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/state/pa-budget-gambling-borr...
- http://www.pennlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/10/the_fall-out_with_the...
- http://www.paenvironmentdigest.com/newsletter/default.asp?NewsletterArti...
- http://pecpa.org/budget/

The budget discussion for the 2018-2019 fiscal year starts in mid-February, and the state might less borrowing power to plug ion the gaps this time around.

Please contact your legislator to thank them for a budget – or to express concerns about this coming year’s budget. To do that, please follow these easy steps:

2. New Governor in NJ – In New Jersey, incoming new Governor Phil Murphy just got sworn in on Tuesday Jan 16, and now also needs to prepare his first budget address. Also on his plate are reforms at the Port Authority of NY and NJ, and figuring out ways to finance NJ Transit, the NYC Gateway project and also his campaign promise to convert NJ to 100% clean energy by 2050.

3. Federal Policy – Finally, at the Federal level, beyond the Congressional budget discussions and talk of government shutdown, changes continue afoot at the EPA; and the Trump administration has delayed their presentation of detailed infrastructure funding strategy until after the State of the Union address on January 30th.

In addition, also at the federal level, ASCE national has been active in the following areas:

  • Flood Risks - ASCE and others in a coalition, are advocating that the Administration design and implement federal flood risk standards that ensure any federally-funded infrastructure project takes future flood risks into consideration when building in a floodplain.
  • ‘Waters of the USA’ - ASCE is tracking the proposed EPA rescission of the current “Waters of the USA” (WOTUS) rule which basically determines which streams in the US can be regulated by the EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers. We want everyone to start thinking about ways to comment on the proposed new rule which the EPA says will be issued in the first quarter of this year.
  • FAA Funding – A few months ago Congress passed a six-month extension (until March 2018) of the current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization, which was set to expire on September 30, 2017. Earlier in the summer, both the House and Senate worked on FAA reauthorization bills, but neither made it to the respective floors for a vote due to a lack of agreement on several controversial issues, including the privatization of air traffic control and lifting the cap on Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), which are fees airports can collect from departing passengers to fund federally-approved capital projects. This short-term extension will allow for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to continue working on a longer-term reauthorization.

PA Congressman Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, is deeply involved in conversations about the direction of the new reauthorization bill. But on January 2 he announced he will not seek reelection, thus potentially sapping his ability to bring together a bill closer to his desires.

  • Licensure - The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law held a hearing on occupational licensure. In the hearing notes, the Subcommittee stated that although the original purpose of occupational licensing was to protect public health and safety, an increasing number of states require licensure for a variety of tangentially related occupations. ASCE joined with numerous other licensed organization in a joint statement to the Committee noting an appreciation for their attention on this issue and urging the Committee to consider devising appropriate policies that balance underlying concerns of competition, efficiency, and innovation with the principles of federalism and the good public policy of state regulatory boards as the protector of the health and safety of the public.
  • Clean Water State Revolving Fund - An amendment restoring $250 million in funding to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSF) was included in the $1.2 trillion House Omnibus bill the House recently passed. This funding had previously been removed from the budget proposal submitted by the Administration. The amendment offered by Representative John Katko (R-NY) was easily approved by voice vote.

There are additionally two active Key Alerts at the federal level. To take action visit ASCE’s “Click and Connect” page at http://cqrcengage.com/asce/:

ASCE will continue to monitor activity at the state and federal level that might impact our profession, the projects we work on, and the communities where we live. Please let us know which topics we should consider for next month’s meeting, by sending an email to sfinch@langan.com

Thank you.