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Transportation Trades Department Of The AFL-CIO Applauds Work Group On Infrastructure

Problem Solvers Caucus Report Demonstrates Bipartisan Support for Infrastructure Investments

Washington, DC — Larry I. Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement on the Problem Solvers Caucus Infrastructure Working Group Report Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure:

“We applaud the Problem Solvers Caucus Infrastructure Working Group, led by Reps. Elizabeth Etsy (D-CT) and John Katko (R-NY), for recognizing the urgency of America’s infrastructure crisis and are pleased many of the bipartisan proposals outlined in Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure are solutions transportation labor has long called for. We believe this report can and should act as a framework for investing in our transportation system in a way that will breathe new life into the middle class.

“Specifically, we are pleased that the report calls for stabilizing the Highway Trust Fund by modernizing a gasoline or alternative user fee and providing proper indexing tools. Increasing and indexing a user fee, a long-time transportation labor priority, is the most viable means of funding surface transportation programs because it raises sufficient funding, maintains a dedicated revenue stream, and can be easily implemented. Fixing the Trust Fund requires tough decisions, and we believe the recommendations of the Problem Solvers Caucus should be part of any infrastructure discussion.

“All infrastructure investments should be accompanied by strong Buy America requirements that leverage U.S. tax dollars to create good jobs here at home. We applaud working group members for recommending these requirements be included in all federally funded infrastructure projects.

“We are also pleased the report contains common-sense, long overdue reforms to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF). Ensuring revenue collected in the fund goes toward its intended purpose of supporting ports, harbors and waterways will enable American ports to compete in an increasingly competitive global environment.

“Addressing our country’s severe and widespread infrastructure problems while creating good jobs for Americans who need them most will require cooperation and leadership from political leaders on both sides of the aisle. The example set by the Problem Solvers Caucus Infrastructure Working Group is an important step and we look forward to working with lawmakers to invest in our nation’s infrastructure.”

2016 Fiscal Revues Reveals $160 Million Surplus But What Will Happen Next Is Crucial

Today, the Department of Administrative Services released the 2016 NH Fiscal Report that show a whopping $160 million dollar surplus.

“Thanks to a strengthening economy, our work across party lines to develop a fiscally responsible budget and Senator Hassan’s strong leadership as Governor, we finished Fiscal Year 2016 with a surplus of almost $160 million. With this strong surplus, we were able to put an additional $70 million into our Rainy Day Fund- strengthening it to the highest level in recorded history. As our state’s fiscal outlook continues to strengthen, Senate Democrats remain committed to supporting the economic priorities that are critical to the success of our people, our businesses, and our state,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn.

“The strong surplus of nearly $160 million and historic level of the State’s Rainy Day Fund is yet another clear sign of Senator Hassan’s strong leadership and success as Governor. Regardless of what the Republican Party tries to say about the state’s fiscal health, Granite Staters know that Senator Hassan’s leadership led to real results for the State of New Hampshire. To build on that progress, Republicans in Concord should ditch failed policies like ‘right-to-work for less’ and join their Democratic colleagues on focusing on the real issues that matter to the people of New Hampshire and will keep our economy moving forward,” said Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. 

For the people of New Hampshire this is good news.  It shows that programs like the NH Health Protection Program did not bankrupt the state as some claimed.  We have also filled up our rainy day fund.This will make this years budget fight even more interesting.

Will the legislature cut revenue sources or will they opt to invest in our future?

For example, today, Senator Bette Laskey (D-Nashua) introduced a new bill (SB 100) to appropriate $4 million to the Department of Transportation for the project development phase of the New Hampshire capital rail corridor project.

“The citizens and businesses of New Hampshire know that bringing commuter rail to this state will generate economic growth for decades to come and make New Hampshire a more accessible and attractive destination for families and investors,” said Senator Lasky, prime sponsor of SB 100. “With the support of businesses, workers and families, this project should be a priority investment of this legislature.”

“Commuter rail offers a modern, safe, transportation infrastructure that not only bridges the gap between employers and their need for an educated workforce, but also helps attract and keep young people in our state to drive future growth. This is not a partisan or ideological issue – it is a win-win that is supported by both Republicans and Democrats; business leaders, and working families. Given the significant economic benefits of bringing commuter rail to New Hampshire, I urge my colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee to support this legislation,” Laskey added.  

With a $90 million dollar surplus, after taking money out for the rainy day fund, can we finally agree that the funds are there to push for expanded rail service to New Hampshire.

What about our broken down roads and bridges?  Will the legislature finally put some serious money to repair the hundred red listed bridges in the state?

What about our schools? Will the legislature put some much needed funds to update any of the state public schools?  Will they put more money towards the state’s university system and the community college system of NH?  The State of NH is dead last in state spending on our state universities which is also why we have the highest in-state tuition in the country.

Hopefully they will choose to make some serious investments in our state’s infrastructure and spend more on education funding.

Kuster Applauds Passage of Long-Term Transportation Bill

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) released the following statement about the passage of H.R 22, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which passed the House by a vote of 359 to 66.

“Since taking office, I’ve continually advocated for smart, pro-growth transportation policies to develop the infrastructure we need to compete in the 21st Century.  Unfortunately, for more than a year, Congress has moved from one short-term authorization of our highway programs to the next, harming the ability of states to plan new projects and putting jobs at risk.  Today I was pleased to join a strong bipartisan majority of my colleagues to vote for a long-term, five-year transportation authorization that will boost overall funding and give planners the certainty they need to undertake large-scale infrastructure projects to drive economic growth and create jobs.

This legislation includes important funding for the Federal Transit Administrations “New Starts” program which supports the construction of public transportation systems and is a critical funding source for expanding passenger rail in the Northeast.  The FAST Act also provides $6.3 billion in funding for the National Freight Program, which aims to increase the economic competitiveness, efficiency and productivity of our nation’s vast freight network as well as $200 million to help commuter railroad companies install Positive Train Control technology that will reduce collisions and improve passenger safety. 

I was disappointed, however, that this legislation did not utilize a dedicated funding source to pay for all five years that the bill authorizes.  The FAST Act uses $70 billion in an array offsets from elsewhere in the federal budget to pay for the first three years of the bill, while the remaining two years are not paid for.  I am a strong supporter of efforts to utilize revenue from international tax reform to fund our highway programs over the next several years and I look forward to working with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to ensure that we act soon to fulfill the funding promises made in this legislation.”

AFL-CIO President Richard released a statement prior to today’s vote:

This bill represents a significant and long overdue milestone that will help create jobs and move our nation’s transportation system forward.

The common-sense, long-term funding in this bill provides the certainty working people need to help grow our economy. It proves how good faith, bi-partisan efforts can get things done that are good for everyone. Let’s finish the job and move America forward.

Senator Shaheen Introduces Amendment To Transportation Bill To Repair Aging Bridges

 (Washington, DC) – As the Senate considers transportation funding legislation this week, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has introduced an amendment that would begin to address the more than 148,000 bridges across the country that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The Strengthen and Fortify Existing Bridges Act (SAFE Bridges) would establish a program to provide funding specifically dedicated to repairing and replacing aging bridges.

“Communities all across New Hampshire have bridges that are literally falling apart,” said Shaheen. “Their disrepair hurts our economy, increases traffic, adds wear and tear to vehicles, and are a threat to public safety. My amendment provides long overdue investment in our nation’s bridges and will create jobs in the Granite State and across the country.”

In New Hampshire, more than 300 of the state’s bridges are listed as structurally deficient and more than 450 are listed as functionally obsolete. Nationally, the Federal Highway Administration has identified more than 148,000 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges, more than 20 percent of all bridges in the nation. Each day there are 200 million vehicle trips across these aging structures, many of which are approaching or already past their design lifespan. The SAFE Bridges Act authorizes an additional $2 billion annually, for the next three years, to enable states to repair and replace their structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges.

 

Text of Senator Shaheen’s amendment is available here.

Shaheen: Lack of Stable Highway Funding is Hurting New Hampshire Jobs, Economy

Shaheen makes comments while meeting with NH construction contractors in Lebanon 

(West Lebanon, NH) – As Congress prepares to take up transportation funding legislation this week, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) met with New Hampshire construction contractors at Pike Industries today to discuss the need for legislation that provides stable funding for road and bridge construction. The current authorization of the highway bill is set to expire July 31st threatening important infrastructure projects and planning in New Hampshire.

“The message I heard today from everyone who joined me at Pike Industries was clear, we must have stable funding for road and bridge construction so that these companies can plan ahead, hire workers and begin construction,” Shaheen said. “It’s time for Congress to put partisanship aside and do what’s right for our economy. I will continue to use every opportunity to urge Congress to pass a highway funding bill that makes the future investments needed to support public safety and commerce in our Granite State communities.” 

Shaheen has been vocal about the need to adequately support the Highway Trust Fund so that governments at all levels can plan long-term capital investment projects. New Hampshire has 790 bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and 54 percent of state roads are rated as being in poor condition.

 

House Bill Provides Chance for Expanded, Long-term Highway/Transit Funding Legislation

Transportation Trade Department Logo

Washington, DC—Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement in advance of a House vote on a short-term extension of expiring highway and transit investment programs:

“Today we are urging a YES vote on H.R. 2353, a short-term extension of expiring highway/transit programs that will keep pressure on lawmakers and the President to complete a long-term bill this summer.

“It is a sad state when a two month legislative extension is a victory. But we called for this action. A short-term bill through July gives a chance to build momentum around a longer-term funding bill that gives states and businesses the certainty they need, boosts middle class job creation, and ends the mindless, short-sighted game of patchwork extensions.

“If lawmakers squander the chance this summer to craft a bipartisan, long-term bill that expands funding, the nation will be doomed to years of transportation decay and gridlock with no end in sight. And the voters will be left with no one to blame but the people they send to Washington.”

LiUNA Calls On Congress To Stop Kicking The Can Down The Road When It Comes To Infrastructure Repairs

Image from LIUNA

Image from LIUNA

LIUNA Joins Elected and Business Leaders in Call for Congress to Invest in Critical Infrastructure and Save Lives, Create Jobs

 “It’s Time to Stop Kicking the Can Down the Road and Fix the Road”

LIUNA BannerWashington, D.C. — At a news conference with elected officials, business leaders and infrastructure advocates, Terry O’Sullivan, the General President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), called on Congress to quickly develop a long-term solution for America’s deteriorating roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

 LIUNA represents a half-million workers, predominantly in the construction industry, and is a longtime advocate for greater infrastructure investment.

 Noting that poor roads contribute to more than 10,000 U.S. traffic fatalities each year, that bridges are literally falling down, and that potholes are damaging vehicles and making roads unsafe, O’Sullivan called on Congress to stop “dodging the issue, and playing political games.”

 “The proud men and women of LIUNA, and of all the building trades, are ready to do our job: rebuilding America’s infrastructure,” O’Sullivan said. “We call on Congress today to do its job: pass a long-term, well-funded highway bill; invest in our great nation’s infrastructure; and develop strategies to fund these projects for decades to come.”

 Since 2009, Congress has failed to reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund to address the transportation infrastructure crisis, and has instead passed more than 30 short-term patches. The fund is on course to begin running dry again this summer.

 O’Sullivan urged Congress to act quickly so that transportation and other infrastructure projects can get off the ground. “The responsibility for every stalled infrastructure project, and every worker trapped in jobless despair, rests with Congress until it acts,” he said.

 According to the Associated Equipment Distributors, every dollar spent on infrastructure construction results in nearly $2 of growth elsewhere in the economy. And for every three construction jobs created, five are created in other sectors.

 In all, about 14.5 million workers, or 11 percent of the workforce, are employed in infrastructure jobs; most with good benefits and family-supporting pay, which quickly spreads through local communities.

 Those are jobs, O’Sullivan said, “that can put food on the table of blue-collar, working families, and create a road to prosperity for unemployed construction workers. It’s about transforming not only the lives of these workers, but the future of our country, and our economy.”

 Also joining the news conference were Ray LaHood, former U.S. Transportation Secretary and Co-Chair of Building America’s Future; Salt Lake City, Utah Mayor and National League of Cities President Ralph Becker; Anaheim, California Mayor Tom Tait; and National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons.

 The event was part of “Infrastructure Week,” which includes hundreds of participating leaders and organizations fighting to increase investment in the nation’s critical infrastructure.

 “Ordinary Americans can’t get away from the crumbling state of our infrastructure; we’re here today to make sure that members of Congress can’t get away from their responsibility to do something about it,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road, and fix the road.”

At Sewalls Falls Bridge, Senator Shaheen Calls For Long-Term Funding For NH Infrastructure Projects

By User: Magicpiano  CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

By User: Magicpiano CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

(CONCORD, N.H.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today visited Sewalls Falls Bridge in East Concord to discuss the need for long-term federal transportation funding to replace the aging bridge and other critical infrastructure projects across New Hampshire. Shaheen was joined by Concord Mayor Jim Bouley and other city officials.

“The problem is pretty simple: If there isn’t a real commitment to finance repairs of our roads and bridges, they don’t get fixed,” said Shaheen. “The Sewalls Falls Bridge is a critical project that’s been on-hold because of a shortfall in the National Highway Trust Fund. Leadership in Congress need to propose a long-term highway bill that allows for work on the Sewalls Falls bridge to finally get underway. I will continue to use every opportunity to urge Congress to pass a highway funding bill that makes the future investments needed to support public safety and commerce in our Granite State communities.”

Sewalls Falls Bridge, originally constructed in 1915, was closed in December after it was deemed unsafe for traffic. Prior to its closing the bridge’s weight limit had been downgraded to 3 tons, a move that lengthened emergency response times to certain areas of Concord. Senator Shaheen wrote to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requesting that it expedite approval of the project, which was subsequently granted. However, authorization for the Highway Trust Fund expires on May 31 and U.S. DOT projects the fund will become insolvent in late July, while Congressional leadership has not yet introduced a long-term highway authorization bill that would provide the stable federal funding so critical to this project and many others around New Hampshire. In recent years, Congress has resorted to passing short-term highway bills at the last minute which do not provide the guaranteed funding over many years that many projects need to begin construction work.  

New Hampshire has 775 bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and 37% of state roads are rated as being in poor condition.

Rep Kurk’s Double Speak On The Gas Tax And Fixing Our Roads And Bridges

The State Legislature is quickly trying to wrap up the State’s Budget for the next two years.  Rep Neal Kurk is leading the House Finance Committee and has proposed massive cuts to a variety of state agencies and programs, down shifting costs to local cities and towns.

I just wanted to show people how hypocritical Rep Kurk is with his double speak, specifically on the budget and the gas tax.

Rep. Neal Kurk (R-Weare), Ranking Republican on House Finance (4-4-13)

“This budget is balanced on unrealistic revenue estimates that simply put off the eventual day of reckoning. It includes millions in increased taxes on working families and businesses that will hurt the economy and job creation. It spends 10.2% more money than the previous state budget. This budget also increases the state’s exposure to massive future liabilities as a result of expanding Medicaid. It suspends new school building aid imposes a moratorium on charter schools. It shifts costs of nursing home services to county property tax payers. It purposefully underfunds line items that can be paid for later, outside of the more transparent budget process. We have a real concern about where this budget will lead our State. It’s unaffordable and sets us up for failure both in the short and long terms.”

In the 2013-14 Legislature Rep David Campbell proposed a $.12 cent increase in the gas tax.  That was ultimately shaved down to $.04 cents by the Republican controlled Senate. The Republicans in New Hampshire campaigned on the gas tax increase screaming “Democrats only want to raise your taxes.”

This is what Rep Neal Kurk said about the Gas Tax Increase in 2014:

There’s little question more revenue is needed to meet today’s higher costs in maintaining and improving our highway infrastructure.  But the legislature must meet its responsibilities before it can ask citizens to pay higher taxes.

Kurk admits that we need to do something about fixing our failing roads and bridges but is just not willing to pay for any such work.

Now that Kurk is back in charge of the Finance Committee in the NH House, what is his answer to fix the state’s infrastructure problem?  Cut their funding of course.

Rep Kurk just pushed through a budget that would slash the NH Department of Transportation by $88 million dollars!  That is a 42% cut in the departments funding. The NH DOT are the people who fix the roads, build the bridges, and plow are streets.  The head of the NH DOT said these cuts would mean hundreds of jobs lost, and the possibility on losing millions in federal funds to repair our roads and bridges.

After a massive outcry from the public on cutting the DOT budget by $88 million dollars, Rep Kurk is now saying he will be adding an $.08 cent increase to the gas tax to offset the DOT cuts.

Kurk, R-Weare, said the state’s infrastructure will become severely weakened and have a rippling effect on business and everyday commuters in New Hampshire if lawmakers do not pass a 7- or 8-cent hike in the gas tax. His advocacy for the tax bump was sparked by what he described as a decade of reliance on one-time revenue sources and a decline in federal funding that has led to the state’s undesirable scenario.

An $.08 cent increase would bring in about $50-$60 million over the next two years.  That would still leave a $28 million dollar hole in the DOT budget, resulting in job losses, federal funds lost, and projects canceled.

New Hampshire has one of the worst infrastructures in the country. We have hundreds of red lists roads and bridges and Rep Kurk wants to cut $88 million or almost half of the entire DOT budget.

I am tired of the hypocrisy from politicians who say we need to fix our roads by cutting the funding needed to fix them.

(Check out this short video to see what our roads and bridges really look like)

School Bus Crushed By Falling Roadway

Liuna BusBreaking news, a large piece of road has fallen down and smashed into a local school bus full of children on their way home from school today. 

Do I have your attention now?

The headline above is false.  How horrible would it be if the headline above were actually true?  Can you imagine the real terror you would feel if this news came out of your town?

Just the though of this is horrible, so horrible that we never want to see it happen. That is why the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) is taking this broken bus all around the country. LiUNA wants everyone to know and understand the real dangers of not doing our part to ensure that our roads and bridges are repaired.

“Over 30% of our nations bridges have exceeded their 50 year design life.”

“25% of our nations bridges are deficient or obsolete.”

“Potholes cost US drivers $80 billion in auto repairs last year.” (FixOurbridges.org)

In spite of the dangerous conditions these bridges are used some “250 million times a day.”

That is 250 million opportunities for a bridge to collapse and a bus to fall into a river or a car to be crushed by a large section of the overpass.

We must do something to ensure that our roadways are as safe as they can be. We must invest in repairing our roads and bridges before they completely fall apart injuring or killing countless innocent Americans.

See the video below or on YouTube here.

(Special thank to LiUNA for creating this amazing campaign to highlight the dangers on our roadways. Go to FixOurbridges.org for more information.)

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