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.

richard_trumka_afl_cio_public_option.jpgAFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (Photo: Politics Daily)

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.

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