The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Road ballot issue faces headwinds
The Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council strongly supports this year’s Proposal 1, a May 5 ballot proposal that will generate about $1.3 billion to repair the state’s roads. Passage of the proposal would finally start getting a handle on repairing the state’s roads while creating thousands of construction jobs every year.

It’s not exactly winning popularity contests elsewhere, though – but it’s early. Part of the problem is that ballot question is complicated. Instead of simply raising the gasoline tax, the proposal would raise the state sales tax one penny to seven cents, providing a more consistent revenue source for road repair work. Some of the tax increase would also go toward added funding for schools ($300 million) and local governments ($94 million). The ballot measure also assists low-income families by restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit to its full level (it was reduced in 2011).

An EPIC-MRA poll of 600 likely Michigan voters released Jan. 29 found that 46 percent would vote “yes” on the proposal, while 41 percent would vote “no.” However, after the survey offered details of the complex plan, only 38 percent of respondents said they would vote “yes” and 47 said they would vote against the proposal. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

More lukewarm support comes from the Michigan House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. MIRS News Service reports that lawmakers’ “personal opinions on the proposal to increase the sales taxes by one percentage point are a mixed bag of no’s, yes’s and question marks.”
Rep. Peter Pettalia (R-Presque Isle), the new chairman of the transportation committee, said he won’t be publicly supporting the bill. “As the chair of transportation, I don’t believe it’s my place, at least in this House, to promote or not support,” Pettalia said. Other members said they viewed themselves as information providers to their constituents.

Building trades urge Obama to sign Keystone bill
WASHINGTON (PAI)—U.S. building trades unions urged Democratic President Barack Obama to sign GOP-sponsored and GOP-passed legislation mandating construction of the entire controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. They said the pipeline would create tens of thousands of construction jobs.

But their appeal fell on deaf ears at the White House. Obama has already promised to veto the measure, because it overturns the orderly federal process for considering the project. And the 62-36 bipartisan Senate vote for the bill reveal there are enough anti-Keystone senators to uphold his decision.

The pipeline would carry 800,000 barrels daily of heavy oil from Albertan tar sands to a terminal in Guthrie, Okla. The southern part of Keystone, from Guthrie to the refineries of the Gulf Coast, has already been constructed under a project labor agreement, using union workers. The PLA, with the Teamsters, Operating Engineers, Laborers and other unions, covers the northern segment, too.
“The Keystone XL pipeline is an economic lifeline” for an industry with a jobless rate still above 8 percent, the AFL-CIO’s building trades department said in a statement. It called the 6-year review of Keystone “ridiculously protracted.”

Department unions urged Obama “to listen to the will of Congress,” which is bipartisan, and to his State Department, which previously found Keystone “does not represent any significant increase in atmospheric carbon levels.”