The Senate yesterday passed, 93 to 0, and sent to the House a bill to develop a new public buildings construction policy for the federal government. A similar bill died in a House-Senate conference last year.
The chief sponsors, Sens. Robert Stafford (R-Vt.) and Daniel P. Moynihan (-N.Y.), said present procedures have produced scandals, have prevented meaningful congressional supervision and are irrational in that there is no comprehensive program but only unrelated decisions to erect one building here and then another there.
The bill would repeal a 1959 law under which only major projects are submitted to Congress, and then only for approval by the two Public Works committees. Projects often are approved without regard to whether funds will be available to build them, and the General Services Administration had a backlog last winter of $664 million in unfunded building projects.
The measure would require the administration to present to Congress each year a public buildings authorization bill, with an accompanying estimate of needs for the next five years, which would have to be approved by the House and Senate, not just by two committees.
The bill also would reverse the trend away from use of government-owned buildings to leasing private buildings for federal workers. Annual rent shows up in any one year's budget as far less than the cost of constructing a building, but over the life of a building it is cheaper to build than rent, the bill's sponsors said. The number of federal employes working in government-owned buildings dropped during the last 20 years from 85 percent to 53 percent, Moynihan said. The bill sets a target of raising this back to 75 percent in 20 years.