TAUC Legislative and Regulatory Update, April 2018
TAUC Legislative & Regulatory Update - April 2018
The major legislative action in March was passage of the FY 2018 omnibus appropriations legislation. The $1.3 trillion legislation combined all 12 appropriations bills, completing the budget process of the fiscal year, and funding the government through September 30, 2018. TAUC and its partners had hoped to use the omnibus as a vehicle to enact multiemployer pension reform legislation to authorize the use of composite plans, but were unsuccessful (see article below).
Here is an exclusive update from TAUC on policy and regulatory issues of vital interest to contractors and the union construction and maintenance industry.
Multiemployer Pension Reform
As mentioned above, TAUC and our union trade association and building trade union partners had hoped to include legislation authorizing the use of "composite plans" in the omnibus appropriations bill. Unfortunately, this effort was complicated by the creation of a joint House-Senate "super committee" to provide recommendations and legislation to address issues related to the solvency of multiemployer pension plans and the PBGC. The committee was included in a budget agreement reached earlier this year and is designed to address failing plans like the Central States Teamster plan and the United Mine Workers pension fund. The committee is charged with providing legislative recommendations by Nov. 30th of this year.
Meanwhile, we continue to advocate and build support for legislation introduced by Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN) and Congressman Donald Norcross (D-NJ) to modernize and strengthen multiemployer pension plans by providing local joint labor-management trustees a new voluntary - not mandatory - tool to ensure the long-term viability of their funds by authorizing more choices in retirement plan models. H.R. 4997, the "Giving Retirement Options to Workers Plan" (GROW Act) would authorize the use of hybrid composite plans and would have no cost to the federal government or pension plan participants.
We urge all members to contact their members of Congress and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 4997 and support inclusion of the GROW Act in the omnibus. The bill is being actively opposed by pension rights organizations and some unions, so your assistance is crucial. Recently, Teamsters Joint Council 42 -- whose members participate in the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust Fund -- wrote Congress urging opposition to the GROW Act, falsely claiming it would undermine pension benefits and the multiemployer pension system.
The omnibus appropriation bill included at least an additional $10 billion in funding for infrastructure investments. The additional funding was included in the budget agreement reached earlier this year and is viewed by some as a "down payment" on a larger infrastructure package.
Some highlights of the additional infrastructure investment contained in the final appropriations bill include:
- $3.5 billion in additional funding for investments in highways and bridges;
- $1 billion increase in airport capital grants;
- $1.2 billion increase in grants for rail capital projects;
- $1 billion in additional funding for public transportation capital grants;
- $1.5 billion for US DOT discretionary surface transportation grant;
- $500 million increase for grants for clean water and sanitary waste disposal systems;
- $918 million in additional funding for Army Corps and Bureau of Reclamation water resources infrastructure projects, including ports, waterways, flood control, and water supply; and
- $700M increase for EPA water infrastructure programs.
The budget agreement reached earlier this year provides an additional $10 billion to be available for infrastructure in FY 2019.
Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum Products
President Trump announced that the United States will begin charging a 25 percent tariff on most imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum. Canada and Mexico were initially exempted from the tariffs, along with several other American allies including European Union nations, Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Korea. The President also announced his intent to impose tariffs on $60 billion in Chinese goods and limiting China's ability to invest in the U.S. technology industry.
In response, China is implementing new tariffs on meat, fruit and other products from the U.S. China is increasing the tariff rate on pork products and aluminum scrap by 25 percent. It is also imposing a new 15 percent tariff on 120 other imported U.S. commodities.