Budget Crunch
On Feb. 26, President Barack Obama released to Congress a copy of his proposed 2009 federal budget. The plan calls for $3.6 trillion in spending, but a fiscal deficit for 2009 of $1.75 trillion, with the president aiming to cut the deficit to $533 billion by 2013. For a detailed breakdown on proposed spending, click here. For information directly from the White House on the budget and Obama's financial plans, click here.

One part of Obama's budget of interest to architects, said AIA senior director of federal relations Andrew Goldberg, is the planned healthcare system overhaul?not just because of any spending on facility construction or modernization, but because they need better healthcare too. "Architects are, by and large, small business people. They are employees, they are healthcare consumers, and one of the biggest financial burdens on a lot of firms is the cost of healthcare," Goldberg said. "The fact that [Obama's] looking at it is encouraging." The institute, however, is not thrilled with all aspects of the budget?namely, increasing the tax burden on successful small businesses, which architecture firms can be. "Our view is if you are a successful firm, you should not be penalized by paying higher taxes," Goldberg said, although he noted the AIA has not heard many member complaints yet over the higher tax rates.

Speaking Engagement
Standing before Congress on Feb. 24, President Obama addressed the nation, laying out the severity of the economic situation and rallying the country to meet the challenges that the next months and years will hold. Obama promised to save or create 3.5 million jobs over the next two years. Among the first jobs he touted were those building and rebuilding roads and bridges, as well as constructing wind turbines and solar panels. "We will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills," said Obama.

Capitol Idea
Stephen Ayers, acting architect of the U.S. Capitol, received a Feb. 26 letter from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Calif.) asking him to move forward and draft plans to retrofit the Capitol Power Plant so that it burns 100 percent natural gas and not coal, as it does now. The plant powers the Capitol, House and Senate office buildings, the Library of Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, and other federal buildings in the Capitol Complex.