AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Dept. urges federal lawmakers to move on infrastructure

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THE NATION’S INFRASTRUCTURE demands immediate action for repair and upgrades, but lawmakers, until now, have been unable to agree on funding. – Millstone Weber photo

Washington (PAI) — The head of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department is urging Congress, again, to “get serious about infrastructure.”

In a column posted in early January on TTD’s website, Larry Willis declares U.S. roads, railroads, bridges, airports, subways, seaports and other infrastructure are so dilapidated that lawmakers must move on the issue, to the tune of at least $100 billion a year in federal funds.

The degradation, Willis adds, not only costs construction workers jobs they would otherwise hold, but costs the country – its economy and its other businesses – money.

“$100 billion is a lot of money,” Willis wrote.

“With that much cash you could buy four Starbucks lattes for every living human on the planet. That’s 33 billion lattes.

“If coffee is not really your thing, consider buying every single NFL team three times over. Don’t like sports? You and the record-holding Powerball winner can compare piles of cash and together marvel at how yours is 63 times taller.

“Or, if you are the federal government, you can pitch in your annual share of the cost to build and maintain our highway, water, mass transit, aviation, and rail infrastructure,” he said, adding state and local governments pay far more than that.

The catch is federal lawmakers haven’t moved on the money, even though, broadly, both GOP President Donald Trump and lawmakers from both parties support doing so.

TAX CUTS, BUT NO
DOMESTIC SPENDING

The problem is improving infrastructure – even $100 billion yearly to pay for it – will cost more than the annual gas tax revenue the feds take in. That’s the sticking point.

The gas tax has stayed static for 25 years. TTD unions, led by the Laborers, have advocated increasing it to pay for the nation’s infrastructure needs.

But right-wing Tea Party and Freedom Caucus Republicans –– who support tax cuts for the rich, and are dead set against tax hikes and any and all domestic spending –– ruled the then-GOP-run House for the last eight years. So there was no action.

“In the House, raising funds for infrastructure falls under the jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee,” Willis explained.” As one might expect, they’ve put together subcommittees over the years to focus on many of our major national needs: Health care, Social Security, tax policy, trade, and so on.

“But when it comes to infrastructure, that hasn’t been the case. A single, two-hour hearing” in the last eight years “in which each lawmaker is allotted five minutes to figure out how to pay

for hundreds of billions of dollars in must-have infrastructure needs is not going to cut it.”

$964 BILLION FOR ROADS,
BRIDGES, MASS TRANSIT

Citing non-partisan studies by the American Society of Civil Engineers and others, Willis puts the cost of just fixing the backlog of decaying roads, bridges, passenger and commuter railroads and mass transit at $964 billion. That’s not counting airports and seaports.

Meanwhile, “The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee – the authorization committee for us policy geeks – correctly focused its energies on how to spend existing resources,” the gas tax. But the gas tax just funds the federal share of road, bridge and subway repairs, plus mass transit operations in areas with fewer than 250,000 people.

“Expanding the pool of revenues we know are needed will require congressional tax writers to be focused on solving this problem as well,” Willis adds. That means the tax-writing lawmakers on Ways and Means must get involved, he declares.       

“For the millions of working Americans who build, maintain, operate, and travel on our nation’s infrastructure network, this is an idea whose time has come. As one of America’s largest expenditures, it makes perfect sense that Congress would task its members with solving our ever-growing infrastructure problem,” Willis contended.

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