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Dems, AFL-CIO Step Up Push for Infrastructure Spending as Job Creator

10:45 AM PST on November 17, 2009

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 alldown the supply chain in construction, manufacturing, design andengineering – and we need to be sure these dollars create U.S. jobs anddevelop badly needed U.S. industrial capacity. And weneed to invest in good green jobs – green technology, energy-efficientretrofits 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 questionfor Congressional leaders has been whether the spending in such a plancould enter the economy quickly enough and how to pay for it. SomeDemocrats, led by Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.), are pushing for a newtransaction tax on Wall Street to help rebuild Main Street, believingit would put Republicans opposing any tax increases in the position ofbacking Wall Street traders over middle-class Americans.

Butthere also have been concerns that such a bill could be lampooned aspork-laden, given that it will be packed with earmarks. The lasttransportation bill, crafted when the GOP was still in charge, includedthe “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska that became a symbol of wastefulspending.

Leaderskept traditional earmarks out of the stimulus package earlier this yearexactly because of that fear — although that didn’t stop Republicans,who voted en masse against the plan, from blasting it as an unnecessaryspending spree.

Thenext stimulus plan could go far beyond new roads and bridges, however.Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has already held her own meetingwith economists who universally recommended additional spending, hasnoted that Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) has presented anarray of potential items behind the scenes. Publicly, Pelosi — who haseschewed the word stimulus — has mentioned such items as more aid tocash-strapped states and a tax credit for hiring new workers.

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