The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 15, 2014

News Briefs

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

No long-term fix for highway funding

WASHINGTON (PAI)—Congress’ literally last-minute passage of a $11 billion bill to fund highway, bridge and mass transit projects through next May still left union leaders grumbling.

That’s because the lawmakers did nothing to solve the permanent problems of the Highway Trust Fund, whose gas tax revenues ordinarily fuel the projects.  The fund was running out of money, thus threatening to idle 700,000 construction workers at the height of construction season, when lawmakers acted.   And solons found the funds elsewhere, thus “kicking the can down the road” before leaving August 1 for their month-long recess.

AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel called the 113th Congress “the least-productive Congress in history.”

“There are an enormous number of needs going unmet,” Samuel said in an interview during the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting in Washington.

“Our focus is on jobs – a serious commitment to building infrastructure, to resolving the public pension crisis, to rewrite labor laws.  But none of these have a chance,” he declared.

Laborers President Terry O’Sullivan laid the blame on the GOP-run House, both for waiting until the last minute on the fix and on its refusal to approve a long-term highway bill.

“What is the House of Representatives waiting for?” asked a disgusted O’Sullivan.  “Another catastrophic bridge collapse?  More massive potholes?  A school bus accident?”


Bring jobs home? Stay away, says GOP

WASHINGTON (PAI)–Once again, a Senate Republican filibuster killed a pro-worker bill, the Bring The Jobs Home Act, to extend tax credits to firms which do just that.

By a 54-42 vote on July 30, lawmakers tried to cut off the GOP talkathon against the Bring The Jobs Home Act.  The measure would yank tax deductions from firms that off-shore U.S. jobs while extending a 20 percent federal tax credit to those that return off-shored jobs to our shores.  Senators needed 60 votes to cut off the debate, and didn’t get them.

One Republican, Maine’s Susan Collins, voted to end the filibuster.  The others, plus Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, voted to talk the bill to death.  Collins, 52 Democrats, and both independents voted against the filibuster.  Three Republicans and a Democrat did not vote.

The Steelworkers lobbied hard for the legislation, S2569.  The union’s delegation visited lawmakers the week before and union President Leo Gerard wrote to each senator, urging its passage.  Union members also sent a flood of phone calls and e-mails to senators.  Chamber of Commerce pressure rounded up enough Republicans to kill the bill via the filibuster.

They called the bill “misguided” and said it “would hamper American worldwide companies’ competitiveness, increase complexity in the Internal Revenue Code, and threaten economic growth.”

The vote deeply disappointed Gerard, who said USW members would make it “a benchmark” for their own votes in this fall’s election.

“The procedural vote by Republicans and their leadership blocked the jobs bill, making a statement that corporate deserters get political priority for tax breaks in moving jobs overseas, rather than advancing tax credits to advocate jobs at home for working families,” he said.

“USW members understand the importance of today’s vote.  We will not give up on this important jobs legislation and will make it a benchmark of Election 2014 for senators up for re-election,” he added.