Dem senators: Big job loss if transportation bill is not extended

Two Democratic senators are warning that 1.8 million jobs could be lost if Congress fails to approve a new transportation bill by Sept. 30.

Sens. Tim Johnson (S.D.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.) sent a letter to every senator on Thursday highlighting the state-by-state impact on jobs they said would be felt if a new bill funding highway construction and public transportation is not approved.

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California would lose more than 164,000 jobs without the funding, while New York state would lose more than 118,000 jobs, according to figures the senators said were based on Department of Transportation job models.

Less populated states would also feel the crunch. North Dakota would lose more than 8,000 jobs, while Vermont would lose nearly 7,000. The full state-by-state list can be seen here.

The existing transportation bill expires Sept. 30. Boxer and Johnson want to approve a two-year measure that would fund programs at current levels, at a cost of $109 billion. Boxer, the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has backing from her panel’s senior Republican, Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.).


President Obama on Wednesday in a Rose Garden appearance urged Congress to move a transportation bill, casting it as an opportunity to create jobs. The White House and Congress are bracing for a new report on unemployment figures on Friday.

Differences between the House and Senate could prevent an extension of the transportation bill, just as they delayed legislation to extend authority for the Federal Aviation Administration in August. That dispute left thousands of workers furloughed for more than a week.

The House transportation bill would authorize funds for six years, but would cut funding by a third from current levels.

Here’s the letter from Johnson and Boxer:


August 31, 2011

Dear Senator:

We want to bring to your attention a matter of immediate concern to the people of your state.

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU) authorizes funding for the construction of highway and transit projects. On September 30, it will expire.

IF CONGRESS DOES NOT TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION TO PASS A SURFACE TRANSPORTATION AUTHORIZATION EXTENSION BILL BY SEPTEMBER 30, 1.8 MILLION JOBS ARE AT STAKE.

Based on the U.S. Department of Transportation jobs models, the $52 billion in Federal funding provided through these programs, when matched by State and local investments, supports over 1.8 million jobs nationwide through all sectors of the economy. At the earliest opportunity in September, the Senate must approve a bill that funds highway and public transportation programs at current levels through January 2012, so that America can avoid more unacceptable job losses. It is critically important that the Senate pass this bill before the current transportation authorization expires.

We are working in the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on a bipartisan proposal to reauthorize surface transportation programs for two years at current funding levels. In the meantime, the current surface transportation bill must be extended to allow time to complete work on this legislation.

Attached is a breakdown of what is at stake in your state if SAFETEA-LU expires on September 30.

If you have questions regarding the extension, please contact us or our staff: David Napoliello, EPW Committee Majority Senior Policy Advisor, at (202) 224-8832; or Homer Carlisle, Banking Committee Majority Professional Staff Member, at (202) 224-7391.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer

Chairman, Committee on Environment and Public Works

Tim Johnson 

Chairman, Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs