Union cheers Obama $300B infrastructure proposal

Greg Nash

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Wednesday that unions “stand ready” to work on projects that would be funded by President Obama’s proposed $300 billion transportation bill.

Obama is expected to unveil a proposal for a four-year, $302 billion reauthorization of the road and transit funding legislation that is scheduled to expire in September on Wednesday afternoon.

Obama’s proposal would nearly double the length of the federal government’s current commitment to transportation spending and increase infrastructure spending levels by about $21 billion per year.

Trumka said Wednesday that he applauded Obama’s proposal to increase and renew transportation funding. 

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“The president wants to push for public and private infrastructure investment, we say bring it on – union workers stand ready to meet the needs of the largest project you can think up,” the union leader said in a statement.

“We’re not just ready to do the work, we’re putting our money where our mouth is, already committed to investing $10 billion in pension assets,” Trumka continued. “We didn’t become the world’s largest economy just by good luck. We made massive, smart investments in public goods at the right times. And we’ll do it again – our government and business leaders can invest smarter, and our workers can build it better.”

Obama is proposing using $150 billion in what White House officials termed “one-time transition revenue” to avoid a projected bankruptcy in the Highway Trust Fund that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected could happen as early as August.

Surface transportation funding bills have traditionally been paid using money collected from the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax.

The gas tax only brings in about $34 billion per year, however, and the current transportation that is scheduled to expire in September included about $54 billion annually in road and transit projects.

Lawmakers used money from other areas of the federal budget to close the gap in the current transportation bill, which was passed in 2012.

White House officials have said Obama will argue that the money could be generated this time by savings from lawmakers passing "pro-growth business tax reform."

The AFL-CIO said Wednesday that 535,000 jobs would be lost each year if the surface transportation bill is not reauthorized by lawmakers this year.