Following the re-election of President Barack Obama, the AIA has released a statement calling on legislators in Congress and leaders in the executive branch to work together toward building a sound budget for the future. 

"Now that the election battle is over, we urge both the White House and the newly elected Congress to launch a new era of statesmanship by putting aside differences on the budget and by enacting policies that will help put the economy on a more solid footing for all Americans," says AIA president Jeff Potter, FAIA, in a release. "In particular, we urge both parties to solve the impending budget impasse known as the 'Fiscal Cliff,' where mandatory budget cuts and tax hikes threaten to cost more than 60,000 construction jobs." 

Architects' need for budgetary clarity going into 2013 can't be overstated. According to a report released by the AIA, the $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts that result from the Budget Control Act of 2011 in lieu of a greater compromise—an eventuality known as sequestration or the fiscal cliff—could mean $2 billion in lost work and more than 60,000 lost jobs for the architecture and building industries. That makes the fiscal cliff the number-one legislative priority going into the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. 

The AIA also released a number of other priorities for the re-elected Obama administration and the 113th Congress. These priorities include easing access to credit for developers, adopting a comprehensive plan for addressing the nation's infrastructure, enacting incentives to encourage energy conservation in buildings, and promoting tax reforms to benefit small businesses.

Writing for Slate's financial column, Matthew Yglesias observes one point that architects will want to keep in mind while thinking about the fiscal cliff: It is not, in fact, a cliff. Describing it as "a deeply banal situation," Yglesias says that there is no real difference between resolving this crisis before or after its onset. In either scenario, Congress must pass legislation that sets appropriate targets for spending cuts and tax relief.

But that perspective ignores the possibility that markets could react terribly to signs of government dysfunction, the way they did during the original debt-ceiling crisis. To that end, outlining and enacting legislative priorities now is much more effective than after the economy "goes over" the metaphorical fiscal cliff. And according to the AIA's release, the AIA is outlining detailed legislative priorities now, which it will release in coming weeks. Public and private sectors alike should be having this conversation now in order to forestall even the suggestion of legislative or financial crisis.