Legislative Update: Gas Tax Flap, Washington Economic Stimulus and New National Infrastructure Coali
Thursday, January 24, 2008
House Speaker, Sen. Majority Leader Headline a Successful Mt. Pleasant Conference
One of the many highlights of this year’s annual conference at Soaring Eagle Resort was a discussion between House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) moderated by the state’s senior capitol correspondent, Tim Skubick.
Audience members were disappointed that neither leader was ready to specifically embrace a gas tax increase. The political pressures associated with an upcoming election make public statements like that very difficult. On the other hand, both acknowledged the significant need to invest in infrastructure and suggested that they must begin to tackle the mounting crisis.
Comments allegedly made at the conference by the House Speaker that a gas tax vote was “probable” in lame duck had ripple effects across statewide media. The right wing website http://www.rightmichigan.com/ began posting blogs on the topic even before the prime rib had been served at the MITA black tie dinner. Statewide news organizations picked up on the story, with the Speaker later saying his goal was to tackle transportation funding before the New Year, but that no specific solution was has been agreed upon.
Infrastructure Spending Could Benefit from Washington Economic Stimulus Package
Concerned by recession fears, President Bush and leaders of Congress joined in a rare show of cooperation in promising urgent action to pump up the economy with $150 billion in tax cuts and government spending.
Recognizing a rare opportunity, the Clean Water Construction Coalition (CWCC), of which MITA is a member, sent a message this week to Congressional leaders urging them to include water and sewer spending in the stimulus package. The CWCC noted that the existing states which operate Safe Drinking Water SRF construction programs have projects ready to go and can begin construction on short notice. The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) also stepped up, calling on Washington to stimulate the economy through increased transportation spending.
The message must be taking root, as MITA received numerous phone calls from Washington this week inquiring about the possibilities of the added investment.
Schwarzenegger, Rendell, Bloomberg Announce Infrastructure Coalition
Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) and Ed Rendell (D-Pa.), and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) joined together January 19 in Los Angeles to announce the formation of a new coalition to promote increased federal infrastructure investment. The “Building America’s Future Coalition” will consist of state and locally elected officials from across the nation. The Rockefeller Foundation will provide the coalition with funding for staff and resources. “America needs $1.6 trillion worth of infrastructure over the next five years, yet federal investment has been cut in half as a percent of gross domestic product since 1987,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “This is disastrous because without adequate infrastructure to quickly and safely move goods and people our economy and our traffic will stop dead in its tracks.” Governor Rendell noted, “In the past 20 years, state and local governments have been forced to pay more and more of the cost for infrastructure repairs and expansion.” “The funding needs to maintain our existing infrastructure, and to improve and expand infrastructure as our nation continues to grow, just hasn’t been the priority it needs to be,” added Mayor Bloomberg. In the short-term, the coalition plans to work to educate presidential candidates and the platform committees of the major political parties on the massive infrastructure challenges facing the nation. The group will also attempt to ensure the next president is committed to increasing federal funding for all types of infrastructure improvements. ARTBA President & CEO Pete Ruane met with representatives of Governor Rendell a year ago to discuss the governor’s infrastructure agenda.
If you have any questions please contact Mike Nystrom, Vice President of Government and Public Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org; or Keith Ledbetter , Director of Legislative Affairs at
email@example.com; or by calling the MITA office at (517) 347-8336.