Infrastructure Investment is Critical – Pass It On

Living in a household containing both a public employee and school-age children, I've been compelled over the past three weeks to closely follow all news items related to the budget proposals by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Though I disagree with many of his proposed cuts (especially to education funding), one thing he did get right is a proposal to maintain funds for several major highway construction projects. As most of you involved in construction can attest, infrastructure investment is a proven means to promote economic growth and job creation. Yet, not everyone recognizes this fact. Take the writer of a recent letter to the editor in our local paper, who chastises Walker for maintaining infrastructure investment in light of budget constraints and school funding cuts. His suggestion to simply "maintain" existing roads and cut all other investment is a clear sign of ignorance (running rampant in the state these days) over how such funds work and their affect on local communities. Just as teachers and other public employees have been vilified as "lazy," "spoiled" and even "overpaid" by some, the transportation sector is often accused of being an unneeded "waste" in times of economic crisis. Many infrastructure projects are labeled as earmarks when they are, in fact, urgently needed to ensure safety and accessibility. Thankfully, Congress recognized this fact in the stimulus package passed last year – but only to a point. Funding levels were well below what the industry assessed was needed, and arguments continue to fly over whether the stimulus did enough to promote job creation. Again, what outsiders fail to recognize is the number of job losses that would have occurred without it. I shudder to think how far construction, already mired in a depression, might have fallen had stimulus dollars not been made available. Now, just as the industry is showing faint glimmers of recovery,  stimulus funds are dwindling down, private sector investment is barely breathing and yet another extension has been passed to forestall reauthorization of multi-year transportation funding legislation. What the general public doesn't understand is this: reauthorization must happen this year. If not, as U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood foretells, it will be very difficult for legislation to survive election year politics in 2012. Without ongoing funding guarantees, long-term publicly funded projects will grind to a standstill, along with any economic development that comes with it. It's more critical now than ever for the construction industry to take a stand to promote increased infrastructure investment. With all publicly funded programs under intense scrutiny by budget hawks, we cannot afford to let the construction industry become the latest scapegoat. It's time to educate both legislators and the American public on its positive economic impact on communities across the country. To learn how, check out the I Make America Work website or download the Grassroots Action Guide at www.artba.org. Or, to contact your elected federal officials directly, visit usa.gov.

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