Tag: highway bill

CEOs Call on Congress to Pass a Multi-Year Highway Bill

With the six-month surface transportation extension now passed and signed by the President, manufacturers are eager for Congress to complete its long overdue work and get a robust, multi-year surface transportation authorization done in the early months of 2012. 

Twenty CEOs of large manufacturing and service companies echoed this message in a recent letter to the House and Senate leadership. The letter represents an important and relevant perspective from a mix of companies that support the overall manufacturing economy. 

Recognizing that there is “no singular solution to remedy the nation’s economic challenges” and the “need to rein in and prioritize spending,” these CEOs succinctly highlighted why transportation must be part of the pro-growth agenda. 

For these companies, it’s not just about jobs and keeping the transportation system safe and efficient which are critically important to the country.  The United States is in a situation today where our global competitors are outpacing us, building transportation networks for the 21st century while we continue to hang our hat on what was accomplished in the 1950s and 60s.

Of note and recently highlighted in a report called Falling Apart and Falling Behind by the Building America’s Future Educational Fund, U.S infrastructure has dropped from number one in the world in 2005 to number 15 today according data published by the World Economic Forum. 

For these CEOs, that’s not acceptable and the NAM couldn’t agree more.

Robyn Boerstling, is director of transportation and infrastructure policy, National Association of Manufacturers.

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House Approves Extension of Transportation Bills

Between the President’s jobs plan which includes a new round of $50 billion in transportation infrastructure funding and a late-breaking transportation extension agreement between House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Friday evening, transportation issues will remain at the fore this week. 

The President formally unveiled his jobs legislation yesterday and the House voted today to pass the combined Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and surface transportation extension authorization (H.R. 2887) that maintains current policy and funding at FY 2011 levels for the next four months for the FAA and six months for surface transportation programs. 

For manufacturers that serve as a core group of suppliers to the transportation construction supply chain, the extension provides a level of certainty as Congress wades into larger discussions about two different reauthorization proposals from House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman John Mica and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer.  As the result of conflicts that have mired the ongoing FAA reauthorization effort and no guarantee that the surface authorization holds a place on the congressional calendar for the remainder of 2011, this multi-modal (FAA, highways, transit, FMCSA, NHTSA) extension provides the right amount of breathing room for Congress and stakeholders.  NAM supports this approach and House and Senate leaders are should be commended for coming together early and decisively. 

However, the reprieve for federal transportation programs and the President’s proposed boost in infrastructure funding should not be an excuse to put the FAA or the surface transportation reauthorizations on the back burner.  The expiration dates are still around the corner and manufacturers are eager for a serious, long-term approach to investing in infrastructure that will maintain our global competitiveness and help our manufacturing economy grow. 

The President’s proposal offers a needed one-year, $50 billion shot in the arm for various transportation infrastructure programs, but for the $50 billion and the $10 billion National Infrastructure Bank proposals to be truly effective, Congress needs to conclude the FAA and the surface transportation reauthorizations to counter our broken approach to investing in infrastructure.  Otherwise we’re just hobbling along and complex multi-year projects that support regional economies, require big factory orders and employ thousands, will be cast aside in favor of what’s easy to accomplish. 

Robyn Boerstling is director of transportation and infrastructure policy, National Association of Manufacturers.

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Highway Bill Extension Critical to Manufacturers Competitiveness

This morning in a Rose Garden address President Obama called for Congress to pass an extension of the surface transportation and aviation programs which are critical to the daily transportation needs of manufacturers. Manufacturers welcome President Obama’s engagement and call for Congress to pass a bipartisan reauthorization which expires on September 30, as well as an extension of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization which expires on September 16.  These critical national infrastructure programs require certainty and adequate funding levels to ensure the safety of the public, economic growth and jobs. 

Temporary extensions are not a long-term substitute; the Administration and Congress still need to act on a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization at robust funding levels and a multi-year reauthorization of our civil aviation programs.

The President’s announcement that federal agencies will be tasked to expedite environmental and permitting reviews of high-priority infrastructure projects that will create and sustain jobs now was a welcome first step.  Rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure will require additional and fundamental policy changes in how we finance, permit, build and manage our investments.  Manufacturers expect a bipartisan approach to these issues that will deliver results. 

As our international competitors continue to ramp up investments in transportation infrastructure from modernizing air traffic control systems to expanding highway and transit capacity to accommodate growth, the House and Senate in the coming months must fully embrace these important domestic initiatives that Americans require to keep manufacturers competitive and our economy moving.  Manufacturers grow when the country adopts meaningful policies that support economic growth and expansion.  

Rosario Palmieri is vice president for infrastructure, legal and regulatory policy.

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For President, Transportation Questions Would Have Been Good

Lori Ann LaRocco, Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, solicited reaction to President Obama’s appearance Monday at the network for a blog post, “Dick Armey Strikes Back At Obama, CEOs Weigh In On the Rhetoric.” Among those she cites is the NAM’s president, John Engler:

Governor John Engler, President of that National Association of Manufacturers also echoed the need for private jobs stimulation to me when I asked him what was the one question he would have loved the President to have been asked.

“It is all about jobs and we would have liked to have heard President Obama talk more about specific plans to create jobs and allow manufacturers to compete.”

Governor Engler told me a story that would have lead up to his question.

“A year ago the transportation bill — the bill that pays for bridges, and highways, rail and public transit expired. It’s a six-year bill that’s usually reauthorized on a bipartisan basis,” said Engler.

“Last year, House Transportation Chairman Jim Oberstar proposed a plan to increase spending on infrastructure to $500 billion. That’s ten times the $50 billion down-payment that you proposed on Labor Day. And, getting the highway bill reauthorized early in 2010 would have created more jobs than your Labor Day proposal. Why didn’t you get involved into this debate a year ago?”

He makes a good point.

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Infrastructure Plan and Manufacturing: Details, Please

In his speech to organized labor Monday in Milwaukee, President Obama provided a brief outline of a proposal to increase federal investment in transportation infrastructure.

The National Association of Manufacturers’ policy guide and call to action, the “Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America,” placed federal investment in infrastructure high on the NAM’s list of policy priorities (see the extended entry below), so we were anxious to find out more about the President’s plan.

A frustrating search…

WhiteHouse.gov posted “Renewing and Expanding America’s Roads, Railways, and Runways,” a 2-1/2 page “fact sheet” that served as talking points.

The document raised many questions, answered few. For example, in the proleptic bullet points about “tangible accomplishments,” there was this: “ROADS: Rebuild 150,000 miles of roads – renewing our commitment to the backbone of our transportation system…”

“Rebuild” is often used as a code word, telling environmental groups that no dollars will spent on new construction or additional capacity.  New roads to ease congestion and improve the efficiency of freight transportation by trucks? Not in the plans. Maybe that wasn’t the intention, but given the paucity of information, it’s a reasonable conclusion to draw.

Then, following the bullet point about the $50 billion in “upfront investment” came this paragraph:

A vision for the future. The President proposes to pair this with a long-term framework to reform and expand our nation’s investment in transportation infrastructure. Since the end of last year, when the last long-term surface transportation legislation expired, these investments have been continued on a temporary basis, even as the trust fund to finance them has fallen into insolvency. If we are to enjoy the benefits that come from a worldclass transportation system, Congress must enact a long-term reauthorization that expands and reforms our infrastructure investments and returns the transportation trust fund to solvency.

This is a good idea, a definite priority, finally getting to Congressional reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs. The last  “highway bill” — SAFETEA-LU — expired on Sept. 30, 2009, and Congress has only managed to enact temporary extensions since. A six-year reauthorization as the President mentioned would provide certainty for planning and funding purposes.

So we look for details. The Department of Transportation or the Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) would surely have more details about the Administration proposed re-authorization, one might think.

Not that we can find. The FHwA site prominently promotes infrastructure projects paid for by last year’s stimulus bill, but there’s no reference to the President’s plan.

As for www.dot.gov, there’s nothing on the home page. The only mention we find of the President’s “historic announcement”  comes in Transportation Secretary LaHood’s Fast Lane blog, a post from Tuesday, “President proposes new jobs, renewed infrastructure.” But the post is just a reaffirmation of the President’s basic argument, providing no additional detail. Secretary LaHood concludes, “New jobs, renewed infrastructure, and a new model for transportation investments–it sounds like a lot of work to me. And I, for one, am ready.”

No doubt. But without a substantive proposal — at the very least, a document that lays out a more detailed plan for a six-year reauthorization — Congress and backers of robust infrastructure investment have nothing to rally to. What are we being asked to support?

It’s as if the proposal were designed not for policy, but for politics.

(continue reading…)

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The Good, the Bad, the Political

Various reactions to the sudden flurry of proposals from the White House on taxes and infrastructure.

Wall Street Journal, “Obama to Push Tax Breaks”:

Jay Timmons, executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, described the expensing proposal as “good at face value.”

But he questioned the administration’s logic in proposing to raise some business taxes in order to lower others.

Larry Kudlow, National Review, The Corner, “Obama Gets Write-Offs Right“:

It’s all midterm-election politics, but Obama’s last-minute idea for 100 percent tax write-offs for corporate investment is, in fact, a good idea.

He proposes a two-year window to incentivize businesses to bring forward their investments. From the standpoint of investment, it’s the right way to go. Perhaps Larry Summers now thinks tax cuts are the right way to go, too.

CEOs like Fred Smith of FedEx have argued for full cash expensing for many years, along with a big drop in the corporate tax rate itself. This is what Team Obama should have done in the first place: Slash business tax rates and accelerate investment-depreciation schedules.

Conn Carroll, The Heritage Foundation, “Morning Bell: The Obama Tax and Spend Hikes“:

[Spending] is just one side of President Obama’s economic prescription for the country. Not only is he advocating another $50 billion in spending on top of the $814 billion in economic stimulus spending he has wasted so far, he is also advocating for a $921 billion tax hike set to take effect this January 1, 2011. The administration wants us to believe that this massive tax hike will have no effect on our economic recovery. But that is just not so. Raising taxes on work and investment would mean less work and less investment and can be regarded only as an overtly hostile anti-jobs policy. That is just one of the myths exposed by Heritage analyst JD Fosters’ new paper: Obama Tax Hikes Defended by Myths and Straw Man Arguments.

Byron York, The Examiner, “Obama’s ‘pivot’ to the economy comes far too late“:

On his 595th day in office, less than eight weeks before voters go to the polls, Obama is making that now-infamous pivot. In a flurry this week, he’s proposing spending $50 billion on the nation’s roads and railways. He’s proposing a $100 billion research tax credit for businesses. He’ll have more proposals in the days ahead.

White House officials insist these are serious policy initiatives that are not being put forth just so Obama can say he’s doing something about the economy. But that leads to the question: If these are such great ideas, why wasn’t the president pushing them earlier?

Yes. The long-term authorization of federal highway, highway safety, motor carrier safety, and public transportation programs, the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users” (SAFETEA-LU), expired on September 30, 2009.

The Research and Development Tax Credit expired Dec. 31, 2009.

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Today, It’s an Infrastructure Proposal from the President

President Obama will promote infrastructure spending in his speech today at the annual Laborfest in Milwaukee. It’s taxes on Wednesday in Cleveland. But today …

New York Times, “Obama to Call for $50 Billion Spending on Public Works“:

WASHINGTON – President Obama on Monday is to call for as much as $50 billion in government spending to start up a long-term public works plan emphasizing transportation projects – roads, rail and airport runways – over the next six years. …

While Mr. Obama’s plan would call for investment over six years, the White House says it would be front-loaded with an initial investment of $50 billion in taxpayer money, to help create jobs in the shorter term. The administration says it would work with Congress to find ways to pay for the plan, so that it would not add to the nation’s rising deficit. One possibility would be to cut existing subsidies for oil and gas exploration and production.

Perhaps anticipating the announcement, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers released a statement from its president, Dennis Slater, this morning. From “America’s Manufacturers Need More to Celebrate This Labor Day“:

Jobs and the economy are popular topics in Washington right now, and many are talking about investing in America’s infrastructure as an important first step.  But almost nobody is addressing the elephant in the room:  America needs a fully-funded, multi-year transportation bill, and we need it now.  There are few, if any, better drivers of economic growth and job creation than infrastructure investment, and it can’t be done piecemeal.  We need a strategic vision for modernizing our country’s infrastructure, and leaders with the courage to make it happen.  That’s what will build America’s manufacturing sector and our economy, and bring lasting benefits to America for generations to come.

Verily. The surface transportation bill expired on Sept. 30, 2009, and since then the federal highway spending has been reauthorized several times on a short-term basis. The President’s renewed focus on infrastructure is welcome: Perhaps he will include  a demand that Congress reauthorize the highway bill before it leaves to campaign. (We’d love to hear something like: “Jobs are the priority, and so I urge Congress to drop extraneous, partisan and divisive legislative proposals from its agenda. This is no time for such destructive distractions as the DISCLOSE Act.”)

The National Association of Manufacturers has long identified transportation infrastructure as a competitive imperative, well summarized in our NAM ManuFact. The economic value of investing  in infrastructure was a central thrust of the Milken Institute study the NAM released in January, 2010, “Jobs for America: Investments and policies for economic growth and competitiveness,” and the NAM prominently cites the need for infrastructure investment in our policy guide and call to action, “Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America.”

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Infrastructure, Highway Bill Should Be Priorities for Growth

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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