Groups Fret About Budget Cuts to Architect of the Capitol

Posted March 10, 2011 at 5:28pm

A coalition of groups representing architects, contractors and engineers is calling on Congress to spare the Architect of the Capitol budget this year, citing concern that putting off construction projects will cost more in the long term.

Nineteen groups signed the letter, sent Tuesday to House and Senate leaders of both parties as well as the chairmen and ranking members of the chambers’ appropriations committees and their subcommittees on the legislative branch.

They cited “deep concern” over provisions in the House-passed fiscal 2011 spending proposal, which would cut $29 million from the AOC budget compared with last fiscal year.

The bill will “ultimately lead to higher costs to taxpayers in future years as deferred repairs come due,” the letter states. “Worse, these short-sighted cuts will risk the heritage, safety and security of the U.S. Capitol, the world’s leading symbol of democracy.”

The letter made no mention of the Senate spending plan, which was defeated Wednesday but proposed a roughly $22 million cut to the AOC from last year’s budget.

The groups that signed the letter included the American Institute of Architects, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the International Facility Management Association, all of which count Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers as a member.

Ayers himself did not sign the letter, and his spokeswoman did not return a request for comment asking whether he supports its contents.

But in a hearing on the fiscal 2012 budget before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, Ayers made the same points, albeit with less forceful language.

“As funding is delayed, the requirements will worsen, the risk will escalate, and when funded, the projects will be more costly,” Ayers said.

He added that there are about $1.5 billion in deferred maintenance projects across the Capitol complex.

Ayers is slated to appear Tuesday before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.