Infrastructure: A Clear Path to Jobs & Growth

Op-ed by Sean McGarvey, Jacqueline Hinman and Nicholas K. Akins originally appeared in Tribune News Services.

May 17, 2017

Labor unions and the business community have come together to support a major economic priority — infrastructure investment. There is no better time for the president and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to join us in developing a plan to restore and expand the transportation, water and energy networks on which the U.S. economy runs.

As leaders of large U.S. companies and national labor unions, we join today in calling on the administration and Congress to enact a long-term infrastructure plan.

Infrastructure investment creates jobs now and builds a foundation for economic growth for generations to come. We have seen investment in highways, power lines and communication networks pay dividends for decades. It has been decades, however, since our nation has made major infrastructure investment a priority.

In that time, too many cracks have weakened this fundamental part of our economy. The American Society of Civil Engineers in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card examined 16 categories of infrastructure and awarded the nation a cumulative grade of D+. Aviation, dams, drinking water, energy, roads and inland waterways — each received a grade of D or D+.

The greatest nation in the world should settle for nothing less than an A, and it will take substantial investment and a coordinated approach to raise our grades.

As leaders of large U.S. companies and national labor unions, we join today in calling on the administration and Congress to enact a long-term infrastructure plan, addressing the permitting, regulatory, funding and financing issues that have crippled our ability to build. To guide that investment, we suggest these priorities for use by the administration and Congress:

  • Provide sustainable long-term funding — including an increase in the motor fuels tax — to ensure projects are financed and built
  • Fully implement the expedited regulatory and permitting approval process to speed up project completion, which will reduce project costs and facilitate financing
  • Identify and modify unnecessary regulatory barriers to project approval and completion
  • Support labor standards and skills, as a major infrastructure initiative will require even more talent for implementing both construction projects and the increases in manufacturing and industrial jobs that will be created
  • Support private-sector financing as a way to bridge the public funding gap, given the fiscal constraints on federal, state and local governments
  • Prioritize projects with the greatest economic impact

President Donald Trump has taken steps to address our nation’s infrastructure concerns and has focused on infrastructure as a jobs creator. We were pleased that one of his first actions as president was to sign an executive order expediting environmental reviews and approvals for high-priority infrastructure projects.

Now, Congress must act by setting policy priorities and developing a plan to pay for these much needed infrastructure investments. Our highly-skilled workforce is eager, ready and willing to get to work on these projects.

Business and labor have unified around the economic imperative of infrastructure, and we’re confident our elected leaders in Washington can do the same. After all, support for good jobs and a stronger economy knows no party lines.