Infrastructure, Highway Bill Should Be Priorities for Growth

By September 24, 2009Infrastructure, Taxation

In his appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday, NAM President John Engler cited the disappointing results of the stimulus bill in arguing for elevating the importance of a long-term highway bill reauthorization that permits investments that support economic growth. From his interview with Becky Quick:

Engler: In the stimulus package, for example, which the NAM took a big leap of faith and we supported that early, but the impact, say, on infrastructure has been pretty negligible. Because the fall-off for local and state revenues for roads and bridges was so precipitous that the federal money really kind of got us back to about level. There was really no net significant gain there.

He did make it clear that the stimulus had merit: What if that spending had not been replaced? But let’s not settle for that inadequate amount.

Engler: I was talking to one of the Senators last week, and he said, you know, some of our prominent road builders in this state are at risk. We need to get that going, so you shouldn’t be delaying …

Quick: At risk because there’s not enough work, or there’s not capital?

Engler: Not enough work. There’s no contracts, there’s no jobs. And we need to have…we shouldn’t be putting off the transportation package for a couple of years. That’s something we ought to be saying: Here’s a seven-year bill. Here’s how much we’re going to ramp that up.

Comments reaffirmed by a Bloomberg story, “Caterpillar, Deere, Missouri Await Road Money as Projects Stall“:

Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) — Missouri wants to widen Interstate 70 between St. Louis and Kansas City to get traffic, and jobs, moving again. Construction-equipment makers Caterpillar Inc. and Deere & Co. stand ready to help.

All are being stymied by a legislative deadlock that has stalled projects in Missouri and throughout the U.S. With revenue from fuel taxes declining, lawmakers are arguing over how to renew a six-year, $286.5 billion spending law that expires in six days.

The House yesterday passed a three-month extension of the highway bill, 335-85. The three-month extension is a much better approach than the 18-month extension some in the Senate and the Administration are advocating. The longer-term extension simply delays decisionmaking for the sake of electoral politics, shortchanging the country and basic investment in the process.

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