Focus on infrastructure earns associations’ approval of Obama’s Jobs Act
Several local government and infrastructure associations are calling on Congress to quickly pass President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act (AJA). AJA’s focus on infrastructure construction, renewing the Build America Bonds program and green building drew particularly favorable responses.
The $447 billion AJA includes a mix of tax cuts aimed at encouraging businesses to hire new employees, as well as new spending for infrastructure projects, including the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank aimed at encouraging private investment in infrastructure projects. After Obama’s Thursday night speech announcing the plan, Republicans denounced it as unaffordable and ineffective. However, the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), the National League of Cities (NLC), the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Smart Growth America (SGA), and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) all released statements supporting the plan.
AJA represents “a true Main Street plan” that reflects many of the ideas found in USCM’s “A Common-Sense Jobs Agenda,” released last week, USCM President and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Vice President and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; and Second Vice President and Mesa, Ariz., Mayor Scott Smith said in a joint statement. “Mayors strongly support the president’s plan, which would put people back to work through smart infrastructure investment, tax cuts for working and middle class families, and help the long-term unemployed support their families while they find work,” the mayors said in the statement. “We also applaud President Obama for calling for a [Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act] TIFIA increase.”
Obama’s plan would create jobs now and establish “the building blocks necessary for greater long-term growth,” NLC President and Charlotte, N.C., Councilmember James Mitchell said in a statement. “The outlined plan would save and create thousands of jobs in our communities that are essential to the short-term and long-term health of our communities,” Mitchell said. “It would put thousands of our residents back to work in private sector positions by building and maintaining the infrastructure that is fundamental to our economic future.”
Obama’s inclusion of homes and commercial buildings in AJA’s infrastructure package is important, according to AIA. “We are gratified that President Obama saw fit to highlight the need to repair and modernize 35,000 schools and rehabilitate homes and buildings. In that regard, the AIA continues to push for a continuation of the Build America Bonds program,” AIA said in a statement. “In the two short years that the program was authorized, state and local governments used Build America Bonds to finance roughly $180 billion new construction projects, preserving tens of thousands of jobs. We estimate that at least $45 billion of that amount was used in the construction sector to finance schools, offices, hospitals and other building projects that improve communities.”
However, SGA, which advocates for increases in transportation spending, contends that AJA should focus on streets and roads projects. “Investments in smart growth infrastructure like public transportation and repairing deteriorating infrastructure in existing communities will best achieve the goals outlined in [AJA],” SGA President and CEO Geoff Anderson said in a statement. “Rather than spending millions on land and equipment and obligating taxpayers to additional maintenance, these investments will reduce future costs and put a larger proportion of funds directly into the pockets of American families.”
And USGBC, which created the Leaders in Energy Efficiency Designation, supports the possibility of more funding for energy upgrades on existing buildings. “Energy retrofits especially, and the jobs and innovation embedded in this one activity, are a cornerstone to broader economic recovery in every sector,” said Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC president, CEO and founding chair, in a statement. “We know we could be saving $130 billion a year if we had greener, more efficient buildings and create nearly 1 million jobs in the process. And for every billion dollars invested at home in our infrastructure, we create 25,000 well-paying jobs.”