Dems, AFL-CIO Step Up Push for Infrastructure Spending as Job Creator
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka today called for more investments in infrastructure as one plank of a job creation proposal that he plans to bring to the White House employment summit next month -- as congressional Democrats continued jockeying over how and whether to pursue and long-term transportation bill in the coming months.
Trumka, speaking at an employment conference co-sponsored with the Economic Policy Institute (viewable here), made infrastructure No. 2 in his five-point jobs plan. Pointing to estimates that the nation's unmet physical repair needs are nearing $3 billion, he said:
Every dollar spent on infrastructure employs workers all down the supply chain in construction, manufacturing, design and engineering – and we need to be sure these dollars create U.S. jobs and develop badly needed U.S. industrial capacity. And we need to invest in good green jobs – green technology, energy-efficient retrofits of public buildings and the smart power grid.
Before making his remarks this morning, Trumka talked job creation with House Democrats, who are still debating the timetable for a new federal transportation bill. The major sticking points, however, remain how to pay for the $500 billion legislation and whether infrastructure spending should be "front-loaded" into a shorter window than the usual six years.
Roll Call offers a map of the landscape today, which may sound familiar to transportation policy wonks:
The question for Congressional leaders has been whether the spending in such a plan could enter the economy quickly enough and how to pay for it. Some Democrats, led by Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.), are pushing for a new transaction tax on Wall Street to help rebuild Main Street, believing it would put Republicans opposing any tax increases in the position of backing Wall Street traders over middle-class Americans.
But there also have been concerns that such a bill could be lampooned as pork-laden, given that it will be packed with earmarks. The last transportation bill, crafted when the GOP was still in charge, included the “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska that became a symbol of wasteful spending.
Leaders kept traditional earmarks out of the stimulus package earlier this year exactly because of that fear — although that didn’t stop Republicans, who voted en masse against the plan, from blasting it as an unnecessary spending spree.
The next stimulus plan could go far beyond new roads and bridges, however. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has already held her own meeting with economists who universally recommended additional spending, has noted that Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) has presented an array of potential items behind the scenes. Publicly, Pelosi — who has eschewed the word stimulus — has mentioned such items as more aid to cash-strapped states and a tax credit for hiring new workers.