Economic stimulus — Yes!

A stimulus plan is sorely needed to jump-start our recessionary economy, but it needs to be a plan that creates jobs and benefits our overall economy now and in the future. Simply handing U.S. taxpayers another $600 check, similar to what Congress did this past spring, is not the answer. It’s estimated that only 15 percent of the $78 billion sent out in the form of rebate checks was spent on purchases that were suppose to stimulate the economy. Most of the “stimulus” money was either put into savings or used to pay down debt.

Numerous associations serving the construction industry have been aggressively lobbying for an economic stimulus plan that would fund infrastructure projects that are ready to be built. The proposal would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs immediately. Congress could hold states accountable for how the funding is used by requiring agencies to report the number of new jobs created by a project that receives “stimulus” funds.

With state and local governments facing the brunt of the current economic crisis — rising unemployment, budget shortfalls, higher financing costs and an infrastructure that continues to age — many are unable to finance projects that are ready to go.

It’s estimated that for every $1 billion invested in infrastructure, as many as 47,000 jobs are created. State transportation departments have identified approximately $18 billion worth of projects that have been planned and approved, and could be under construction within 60 to 90 days after economic recovery funding is enacted by Congress. The unemployment rate in the construction industry was reportedly 9.9 percent in September, well above the national average. And, the road construction industry has capacity to handle the additional work if Congress approves funding for projects that have been identified as ready to go.

Additional funding for road, bridge, rail and runway improvement projects would have a significant impact on creating jobs and improving the economy. According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, some of the work that is ready to go includes: milling, resurfacing, overlays, safety striping, guardrail and sound wall installations, signage repair and replacement, and investments in new lighting and safety appurtenances. The backlog of bridge deck repairs, sealing, resurfacing and preservation work could also be addressed immediately in an infrastructure stimulus plan.

According to ARTBA, when President Reagan increased the federal gas tax and expanded federal highway investment as an economic stimulus during the 1982 recession, the action boosted employment in the construction industry between 1982 and 1985 by almost 700,000 jobs.

As a taxpayer, I would rather support job creation over unemployment benefits. As for an economic stimulus plan, it just makes more sense to invest in infrastructure projects that will put people back to work and improve the overall economic vitality of our country rather than mailing out individual rebate checks.

Greg Udelhofen, Editor