Thursday, 2 October 2008
Last week I wrote about the potential for Congress including infrastructure spending in a new economic stimulus package. The idea has been floating around since January when the first stimulus bill (the one that directed the IRS to send us all $600 checks) was in its early stages. ASCE and our coalition partners fought hard to include extra spending on things like roads and waterways, but in the end that provision was left out of the enacted version. It was a disappointing defeat, but we were happy that some of our nation’s leaders had finally realized that rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure doesn’t just fix a few potholes and leaky pipes, it puts people to work in good jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.
As stocks started falling and banks began to fail late this summer, focus in Washington again turned to economic recovery. Seeing the potential for a boost in spending, infrastructure supporters once again put forward an economic stimulus plan that would pump extra money into things like transportation, levee improvements, and school building. This time it worked. Late last week, the House of Representatives passed an economic stimulus bill H.R. 7110) that would have put about $12.8 billion into highways and $3.6 billion for mass transit, among other things.
Unfortunately, when coupled with the big bank bailout, the stimulus fell apart in the Senate, and the bill was dead for the year. Ok, so we didn’t win, but I don’t think we lost either. The fact that infrastructure funding was even considered is a huge step forward and proves we are starting to change the policymakers’ thinking. The fact that infrastructure made it into the bill, got a vote, and it passed one house – even bigger. Let’s pat ourselves on the back!
Sometimes you have to celebrate what victories you can – because the game’s too tough to keep playing and always losing. Yes, we have a long way to go, but it’s important to realize that we’re making progress. So let’s take a well-deserved victory lap and then get back in there so the next time we go all the way!