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Obama, Trumka Talk National Infrastructure As MN Shutdown Freezes 100 Construction Projects

Yesterday’s Twitter Town Hall caused much ado online. Millions of Tweeps partook, mocked and ignored the event, in which President Obama fielded questions via Twitter (presumably the most commonly asked questions earned air time) and answered them.

Of particular interest to the private sector was Obama’s discussion of infrastructure investment, wherein he chided House Speaker John Boehner, suggesting the famous-for-golfing GOP leader would “see the light.”

The Huffington Post responded with an interesting piece that highlights members of the Republican party who support infrastructure spending:

Several freshmen House Republicans have either publicly stated or privately pushed for enhanced federal spending in their home districts. The most recent revelation came when Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) told a town hall last week that the president’s stimulus package — which he had criticized on the road to election — would have been better had it “taken a lot bigger chunk of that money and put it into infrastructure.”

It was a relatively rare acknowledgment from a GOP member that targeted spending on, say, roads and bridge repair, has a positive economic impact. But it’s exactly the type of message that some Republican freshmen have been sending privately.

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) petitioned the Department of Transportation, for instance, to spend $13 million for a port project in his home district. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) asked the department for $4.365 million for airport runway repairs for his district. Rep. Steven Southerland (R-Fla.) wrote a letter to the department encouraging it to guarantee a loan for the company Boldini, S.A. to build offshore supply vessels at a shipyard in Panama City, Fla. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) pressed the department to send funds for high-speed rail construction to New York after they had been rejected by Gov. Rick Scott of Florida.

The AFL-CIO, though, released a press release today deriding House Republicans for their “surface transportation re-authorization bill that would gut current infrastructure investment by a third and obliterate over half a million jobs in the next year alone”:

There is no debate that our nation faces not only a serious jobs crisis but also crumbling roads, transit, bridges, and other public transportation infrastructure that threaten our economic future. And so it is astonishing and unconscionable that the House Republican leadership would push a surface transportation re-authorization bill that would gut current infrastructure investment by a third and obliterate over half a million jobs in the next year alone. This proposal prescribes a grim reality at a time when 14 million Americans who want to work cannot find jobs and our nation suffers a $2.2 trillion infrastructure deficit.

It defies imagination that the Republican leadership and Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee would turn their backs on the needs of our country and pretend it is good government. The evisceration of funding for much needed infrastructure improvements is a direct result of the Ryan budget proposal that passed earlier this year. If they’re listening to the American people at all, they will reject this job-killing proposal and do what’s right for our country.

All of this as Minnesota, mired in a government shutdown that many feel is the result of differences of opinion on social issues, is losing as much as $23 million per week, according to Bloomberg:

Minnesota’s economy may lose about $23 million a week in spending power from public and private workers idled by the shutdown of its government, according to Tom Stinson, the state’s economist.

The 23,000 state workers laid off in the wake of a partisan budget dispute may get only about half their average $1,000 weekly salary in unemployment benefits, Stinson said in a telephone interview from Minneapolis. That, plus the additional loss from employees of nonprofits and private construction workers, may mean a total $18 million taken from the economy, he said.

The impact of the shutdown on construction in Minnesota is particularly severe. Bloombers estimates “as many as 10,000 construction workers could be unemployed because privately funded projects will be delayed with the furlough of state inspectors.” Labor and other leaders renewed their call yesterday for a $1 billion bonding bill as part of budget negotiations:

As members called for an end to the shutdown, they renewed their call for Dayton and GOP legislative leaders to pass a bonding bill.

Dayton proposed a $1 billion bonding bill early in the session, but GOP leaders never supported it. Still, Harry Melander of the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council said he thinks a bonding bill could be part of a final budget agreement.

“We continue to be optimistic that the Legislature will do what’s right for Minnesota,” Melander said. “And try to put tens of thousands of construction workers back to work and provide needed infrastructure repairs that need to happen to make Minnesota the state that it is.”


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