By Greg Sitek
“May you live in interesting times” is an English expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. Despite being so common in English as to be known as “the Chinese curse“, the saying is apocryphal, and no actual Chinese source has ever been produced.
The nearest related Chinese expression is “宁為太平犬，莫做亂离人” (nìng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luàn lí rén), which is usually translated as “Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a man in a chaotic (warring) period.” (1)
As you read through the 2016 forecasts in this issue you’ll notice that predictions for the coming year are encouraging because they allude to an overall improvement in the economy: GDP + 2 %(+/-),
Nonfarm unemployment 5 % (+/-); motor vehicle & arts sales kissing $94 billion; US auto production 17 billion in 2015 and 20 billion by 2017, housing starts bumping 1.4 million units (combined) and there’s more goo news. Oh yes, construction, non-residential could be up as high as 4% give or take a point.
A major legislative accomplishment was the passing of the FAST Act (“Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” Act) — a five-year, $305 billion initiative (including $207.4 billion for the federal highway program). It only too something like 10 years and 35 extensions to produce the FAST Act (I wonder if there might be a touch of sarcasm in naming this piece of legislation.)
Unfortunately Congress chose not to replenish the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) by increasing user fees (e.g., increasing the gas tax). Instead, the roughly $70 billion needed to fully fund the FAST Act and supplement the projected five-year HTF shortfall will essentially be a combination of general fund transfers resulting from savings and revenues generated by:
- Passport revocation for “seriously delinquent” taxpayers
- Federal Reserve Board dividend payment reduction and surplus account transfer
- Strategic Petroleum Reserve sale of 66 million barrels of oil
- Customs fees on airline and cruise passengers
- Internal Revenue Service hiring private tax collectors
- Office of Natural Resources Revenue royalty overpayment fix
While five-years of guaranteed funding is welcomed and will restore much needed near-term certainty for transportation construction programs, there is work left to do. AED and other industry organizations will continue to work with lawmakers to identify real and sustainable revenue streams to increase and stabilize the HTF for decades to come.
I remember that time before there was a six-year highway bill when we, the industry, waited for a proclamation of how much money was going to be allocated from the general to cover highway construction. It was the other time when potholes grew fasted than corn. We need a Highway Trust Fund because we can’t depend on our representatives in Washington to keep their promises and provide the funds necessary to maintain and upgrade our highways.
That aside, 2016 is also an election year. What will happen with oil prices? Or, what about gold? Silver? Interest rates? Oh they did go up 0.25% as we approached the end of 2015.
Of course there all the other concerns that we as a nation face – ISIS, terrorism, climate,, education, safety, healthcare, wages, insurance, etc. The list is endless. During an election year we are a nation in flux. Is this good? Or, is this bad? One thing for certain, it is interesting…
(1) Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_you_live_in_interesting_times)
By Greg Sitek
One of my frustrations is that the two proposed highways bills – House Bill and Senate Bill – are currently in the congressional blender, committee review where the differences will be discussed argued and resolved with a compromise.
While there are several variances between the House-passed STRR (Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform) Act and the Senate approved DRIVE (Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy) Act, lawmakers in both chambers and from both sides of the aisle are confident agreement will be reached, hopefully, in short order. The most difficult issue is the final bill’s duration and investment amounts. Some conferees are advocating for a longer authorization at current funding levels and others are urging a program size increase for a shorter time period.
Senate and House leadership are committed to disposing with final highway bill action before turning attention to the omnibus appropriations bill. Government funding expires on Dec. 1. However, with the highway program’s current authorization expiring on Nov. 20, Congress is poised to approve another short-term extension until Dec. 4.
By the time you read this a bill will be passed – Maybe.
|Transportation for America says:|
|15 months after MAP-21 was first extended in July 2014 and four short-term extensions and $18.9 billion in general fund transfers later, a select group of House and Senate leaders met y to begin ironing out the differences between each chamber’s bill in the hopes of passing a final version within the next few weeks. So where does each bill stand on key issues?
Both House and Senate bills largely represent three (or possibly six) more years of the status quo, doubling down on today’s outdated system for investing in transportation that shortchanges innovation and leaves local communities behind.
They’re willing to back that bet with as much as $85 billion of general taxpayer funds above and beyond the expected revenues from the gas tax.
We’ve put together a handy chart comparing the two bills on 11 key provisions or priorities like funding, greater local control, transit, TIGER, multimodal freight planning and funding, and others. Though there are a handful of policy improvements, some other areas take a clear step backwards from MAP-21.
Unfortunately, there’s little chance to further improve the final bill on most of our key priorities at this point, but we are keeping a close eye on discussions in the conference committee. Stay tuned with us on Facebook or Twitter for more updates as the negotiations continue.
Well, I was hoping to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Highway Bill Year but that’s not to be. You’ll have to settle for a simple Merry Christmas and Happy New year to you and your families and friends.
Meanwhile to keep pace with things happening in the industry and to the highway bill, visit: www.site-Kconkstructionzone.com or scan (insert Site-K QR code) with your smart phone.
By Greg Sitek
ICUEE – International Construction Utility Equipment Exposition is an incredible show because it gives visitors an opportunity to see and “test-drive” equipment. The show started in the “corn fields” of Elburn Illinois. Grew. Moved to the DuPage County Illinois Fair Grounds. Moved to Olathe Kansas. Moved to the abandoned Kansas City Airport. Moved to Louisville Kentucky where it still operates.
It was started because utilities – the phone and electric companies – needed an opportunity to see and test the equipment that they would consider buying in the coming years.
The show grew because it served a purpose and fulfilled the needs of the industries it served. Every show has been progressively better – not the weather, the content. I haven’t missed a one.
This year’s show was doused with rain but it was loaded with new product and in spite of the rain, had a record attendance of more than 18,000+ attendees and hundreds of exhibitors.
Unfortunately I can’t list all of the exhibitors who introduced new or updated products at the show. I personally visited with the people from Caterpillar, Bobcat,
Vermeer, Ditch Witch, JCB, Thunder Creek, TerraMac,Toro, Doosan, Subsite, JCB, Toro, EyeTrax, Altec, Terex, CASE, TEAMCO, IMT, Hyundai, Volvo, Yanmar, Vacuworx, Palfinger and others. It was a great show.
It was a great show because it introduced new products, brought major segments of the industry together, shared industry-relative information and projected a bright future.
In spite of the rain everyone was cheerful and upbeat looking forward to the challenges of the future. Conversations evolved around the “Highway Bill,” other pending legislation and of course the presidential campaigns. One common thread was that virtually everyone was anxious for the race to over because they were tired of all the politics. Another often repeated comment is that the race should be limited to only three or a maximum of six months prior to the election.
Over the next couple of months we will provide you with product information from ICUEE. For now, a recap of ICUEE 2015. It has set a show record as the largest ever with more than 18,000 registered attendees, and surpassing the last show by 13 percent. ICUEE 2015 ran September 29 – October 1, at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
Registrants came from all 50 states, nine of the 10 Canadian provinces and more than 60 other countries worldwide.
The 2015 show set records for exhibit space and number of exhibitors. More than 950 exhibitors, including more than 250 companies new to the show, took more than 1.2 million net square feet of exhibit space to showcase their latest equipment and product innovations, and conduct numerous live demonstrations and hands-on opportunities.
“This is our most comprehensive ICUEE ever, and there has been tremendous enthusiasm and interaction among attendees and exhibitors from Day One, when the official Kentucky Derby bugler opened the show,” said Show Director Sara Truesdale Mooney.
“Attendees are finding more companies, product innovations and product demos – plus quality networking with industry experts and peers that really increases the value of the show,” said Mooney.
ICUEE is also known as The Demo Expo and is the largest event for the utility industry, owned and produced by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). The show brings together industry professionals to gain comprehensive insights into the latest technologies, innovations and trends affecting their industry.
See you at the next ICUEE.