February 2011

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Congress: Don't Kill Good Construction Jobs

Despite coming to power last month in part by attacking the Democrats' weak record on job growth and denouncing President Obama's "job-killing" policies, one of the GOP's first acts as the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives has been to kill good jobs in the economic sector hardest hit by the recession: construction.

House Republicans passed a rules package last month that treats the Highway Trust Fund as part of general revenue, tearing down the firewall that prevents the fund from being spent on unrelated projects. The trust finances state highway and transit projects through the federal gas tax—a tax exclusively earmarked for investing in our highway, bridge and rail systems. And since its creation in 1956, the fund has put tens of thousands of construction trades men and women to work.

But the GOP's move puts future job growth at risk. By treating the fund as general spending, Congress can easily withhold monies for future transportation projects, making it appear they are doing something about the deficit.

And subjecting highway funds to the uncertainty of the normal congressional appropriation process makes it nearly impossible for state and local officials to plan long-term projects, placing thousands of good jobs at risk.

The rule change is opposed by a broad coalition of business, local government and labor organizations—from the Chamber of Commerce and the Building and Construction Trades, AFL-CIO to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials—which recently wrote Speaker John Boehner asking him to reverse the GOP's decision.

A vibrant construction sector is key to our economic recovery, and America can't afford to see it sacrificed in the name of short-sighted partisan politics.

Some lawmakers have taken a courageous stand against this rule change, but we need to hear more voices from both sides of aisle. Good jobs and a strong infrastructure should be a bipartisan issue. With unemployment in construction running more than 20 percent, Congress' priority should be getting more Americans back to work, not engaging in bureaucratic maneuvers that eliminate needed jobs.


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Lindell K. Lee
International Secretary-Treasurer