Passionate Debate

When members of Congress left Washington D.C. for their annual August break to return home, do you think they knew what they were walking into when they decided to schedule town hall meetings? They were met by rancorous constituents who were ready to tar and feather them over the proposed health care reform the Obama Administration is pushing.

Now I firmly don't believe there will be death squads hunting down our grandparents, but it's obvious our political leaders need to provide a few more details on the proposed health care reform. It's definitely refreshing to watch the news clips of ordinary Americans, whether they're informed or uniformed of what the proposed health care reform will or will not do, vehemently express themselves over an issue that has clearly hit their hot button. That's what town hall meetings are all about. They provide a forum for ordinary Americans to communicate with their elected officials.

Wouldn't it be great to see that type of emotion expressed by those involved in the surface transportation industry? Part of the reason why the Obama Administration and some in the Senate continue to push for an 18-month delay on passing a multi-year highway/transit investment bill is because they have their hands full with health care reform and the economy in general.

The current bill expires at the end of September and without passage of a new bill by the end of this year, much of the positive momentum generated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus program will be lost. States will only delay planning on long-term projects until they know exactly what the new federal bill will support. The $450 billion bill proposed by the House and Infrastructure Committee is needed to continue making much needed improvements to this country's surface transportation infrastructure and generate much needed employment opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Stimulus funding saved jobs; a new substantial multi-year surface transportation bill will create new jobs.

Proponents of delaying the bill's passage argue that the time will allow for more thoughtful discussion on a bill that truly supports the needs of the industry and can also be funded in a way that's best for users and American taxpayers.The ?thoughtful? discussion has been going on for a long time while our existing highway and transit systems continue to deteriorate, which only hurts our economic competitiveness in a global market.

If your livelihood and that of your employees' counts on the vitality of the surface transportation construction industry, you need to get emotional in expressing your views with your political leaders. They need to pass a substantial multi-year highway and transit authorization investment bill this year, and they need to raise the federal gasoline tax to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent.

To contact members of Congress, call the American Road & Transportation Builders Association's Action Hotline at 1-888-448-2782. And when you finally reach your representative, don't hold back... tell 'em exactly how you feel!

Greg Udelhofen, Editor