AGC Members Play a Key Role in Legislative Effort
There has been a lot of progress during the past few months in getting Congress to act on the longdelayed surface transportation bill, thanks in part to the work of members of AGC. Indeed, as of mid-February, both the House and the Senate were considering different versions of the highway and transit bill that would make a number of important improvements to the federal program while maintaining current funding levels. Meanwhile, President Obama continued to talk about how investing in the nation's aging highways, bridges, and transit systems is one of the best ways to add jobs and boost the overall economy.
Given the broad, bipartisan, momentum behind passing the highway and transit bill, it is hard to remember how bleak the prospects were a year ago. But back in early 2011, incoming House Republicans chose to authorize potential cuts to highway and bridge repairs as one of their first symbolic gestures. At the point, many in the party's caucus argued for an end to the federal program. And anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist considered— rather publicly—calling on Republicans to end the federal gas tax that provides the bulk of the funds for the federal program. Indeed, anti-investment fervor was so strong that Congress allowed billions in airport construction projects to come to a halt during the summer.
Changing the political climate from one opposed to funding infrastructure to one where Republicans and Democrats are now competing with each other to be seen as the most stridently pro-highway took months of work from AGC and its members nationwide. Immediately after the 2010 election and the message Republicans took from it that any type of federal funding was inherently bad, AGC began putting together an aggressive defense of infrastructure programs.
We partnered with the conservative Weekly Standard to host a forum on the value of investing in roads and bridges. We conducted targeted advertising designed to explain the conservative legacy of the federal transportation program. We prepared, working with a host of conservative policy leaders, a comprehensive Case for Infrastructure and Reform outlining improvements conservatives could champion for the essential program. All the while we spent considerable time and energy meeting with members of Congress, especially newly elected members, to get them to understand the value of investing in infrastructure.
These early efforts worked, and by the end of 2011 it was becoming clear that our efforts needed to shift from explaining the need to invest in infrastructure to helping Congress identify the best way to do that. So we established, working with partners like the US Chamber of Commerce, our “Make Transportation Job #1” campaign. While the effort includes advertising, media events, and what is known as a Radio Media Tour, the focus of the effort is encouraging AGC members from across the country to contact their members of Congress and urge them to pass a highway and transit bill.
AGC members have played a key role in this effort. In December, for example, Rosanne DiPizio with AGC of New York chapter member DiPizio Construction Co. hosted a media event we organized in Buffalo to release new construction employment numbers. Even though Buffalo added more construction jobs than most other metropolitan areas, we made it clear that even more jobs would have been added if Congress had passed a long-term surface transportation bill. We also held mid-February events in Syracuse and Atlanta where we talked about how these metropolitan areas employ fewer people today than in 1990, and again emphasized that more people would be working if a highway and transit bill were in place.
Chapter members didn't just participate in these AGC media events; many of them have taken the time to contact their elected officials, encouraged their colleagues and co-workers to do the same, and even reached out to local business groups and convinced them to weigh in on the need for a new bill. Thanks to the efforts of over 4,500 members across the country, conditions are more favorable now than they have been since at least 2009 for passing a new transportation bill.
However, unless something incredible happens between the time this piece is written and when you read it, more work remains to be done. So I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for all the time, energy, and effort you are going to put into making sure every one of your Congressional delegation members understands how critical passing a long-term, fully-funded, surface transportation bill is to the success of our industry and the strength of our economy.