September 9, 2011
by Tina Grady Barbaccia
Hoping to “provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled,” President Barack Obama on Sept. 8 introduced the bi-partisan “American Jobs Act,” a $447 billion measure he says has a simple purpose — “to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working.”
Specifically, the proposal would allocate $10 billion of the $447 proposed toward an infrastructure “bank” and $50 billion for construction of roads and highways.
Obama is urging Congress to pass the legislation “right away.” He says the legislation will create more jobs for construction workers, teachers, veterans, and for long-term unemployed. Obama also promises a $4,000 tax break for companies who hire new workers who have spent more than six months looking for a job and to cut payroll taxes in half.
“For decades now, Americans…have seen the decks too often stacked against them, and they know that Washington has not always put their interests first,” Obama said in in his Sept. 8 address. “Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers. But we can help.”
Obama admits that his plan isn’t “the silver bullet” to solve all of the nation’s problems and it shouldn’t be “the last plan of action” that is proposed. However, he added, “Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option.” (For a full transcript of Obama’s Sept. 9 address, go to http://tinyurl.com/Obama-Jobs-Speech.)
Pete Ruane, president and CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), commended Obama for “underscoring the urgent need to improve the nation’s transportation network to boost long-term economic competitiveness and create new jobs.”
Ruane says an infrastructure “is a critical tool to advance large scale, intermodal projects, and is certainly a part of the solution.” However, he says, it would take months to establish and would have “little instant impact on job creation or in fixing crumbling roads, bridges, and transit systems.”
More immediately, Ruane says, Congress needs to pass “a robust, multi-year highway, transit and aviation reauthorization investment bills that have been languishing for years. They provide the best opportunity to improve the performance of our transportation network and put millions of construction workers back on the job quickly.”
However, a notable step toward additional highway funding that was somewhat lost in the shuffle of Obama’s address, was the Senate committee’s approval earlier on Sept. 8 of a short-term extension of SAFETEA-LU, the highway spending bill that authorizes Congress to collect the federal gas tax. The measure is the eighth extension of the act, which expired Sept. 30 2009.