Thursday, October 14, 2010

Republicans Plan "Fire a Construction Worker Day" for November 2

By Bendix Anderson

Election day 2010 could become "Fire a Construction Worker Day," if the Republicans win control of Congress.

That's because the Republican leadership in Congress has promised to cancel millions of dollars in infrastructure spending -- and forget about paying for new infrastructure projects. That could mean unemployment for thousands of construction workers.

"There is no reason to wait to reduce wasteful and unnecessary spending," according to the Republican "A Pledge to America," released September 22. "Congress should move immediately to cancel unspent “stimulus” funds, and block any attempts to extend the timeline for spending “stimulus” funds."

There are billions of the $787 billion in Stimulus funds that hasn't been spent yet. Almost all of that left over money will be spent building things. That makes sense, since construction projects take the longest to organize. The $237 billion in Stimulus tax cuts went out immediately. The hundreds of billions that went to fill holes in state and local budgets also rapidly was spent.

How many construction jobs will be lost if unspent Stimulus funds are cancelled? It's hard to say -- though common sense shows that hundreds of thousands of jobs may be lost.

That's because big construction jobs rarely have just one source of funds. Many local, state, and federal programs all contribute a little bit. Mixing funds means that more entities have a stake in making sure a project gets built on time and on budget. It also allows more politicians and officials to attend the ribbon cutting and take credit for the deal.

Take the rehabilitation of the Brooklyn Bridge. The work on the Brooklyn Bridge was already planned and paid for before the Stimulus bill passed in 2009. After the Stimulus passed, $30 million went into the Brooklyn Bridge project. It's a small amount of the total, half a billion dollar budget, but the Stimulus contribution means federal officials can take some credit for fixing the Bridge. Also, the contribution of Stimulus cash freed up local transportation money to fix up six more bridges that need work but hadn't been scheduled for repair.

All that mixing of funds makes it difficult to count exactly how many jobs are being created by the $30 million in Stimulus funds for the Brooklyn Bridge.

However, if that $30 million in Stimulus funds were somehow taken away, the uncertainty would hit thousands of workers. Everyone involved in all seven projects, from bridge painters to contractors to material suppliers, would have to wonder if their work would be delayed or cancelled as politicians fought to fill the budget gap.

That's just one $30 million piece of the $787 billion Stimulus -- 0.001 percent of the total. How many jobs would be threatened if unspent Stimulus dollars were cancelled? A lot.

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