Workers unload pipes for the proposed Dakota Access oil pipeline.
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
President-elect Donald Trump and unions don’t agree on much but his plan to invest in a robust national infrastructure program is one area they are finding common ground.
Trump said during the campaign that he plans to invest $1 trillion into repairing the national infrastructure. His plan has attracted support from both sides of the aisle. Construction and labor unions have said for years that meaningful investments into national infrastructure are long overdue.
“The President-elect during the campaign identified infrastructure as one of his early priorities and called for new investments of $1 trillion or more,” United Steelworkers Legislative Director Holly Hart told InsideSources. “For Americans who face crumbling, often unsafe, infrastructure in their lives as they go to work, drive home, and engage in daily activities, they are desperate for his campaign promises to turn into reality.”
There have been numerous reports of crumbling roads and even bridges collapsing. Flint, Michigan, made headlines when its drinking water became contaminated with lead from aging pipes. An infrastructure investment plan could help fix and upgrade roads, bridges, waterways, and electrical grids across the country.
“The Ironworkers union applauds Donald Trump’s infrastructure program,” Ironworkers Union General President Eric Dean told InsideSources. “We have to have a sustainable maintenance program that recognizes that the existing bridges need to have ongoing maintenance and quite frankly politicians in both parties have done us a disservice.”
Trump also sees his infrastructure plan as a potential jobs stimulus program. Construction and other workers will be needed to work on the projects across the country. He hopes to create thousands of new jobs in construction, steel manufacturing, and other sectors.
“America needs to invest to repair, rebuild and renew our infrastructure,” Hart said. “The president-elect has the opportunity to turn campaign promise into reality and we’re hoping that he won’t be just another politician who fails to see through on his commitments. Millions of jobs are at stake as is the health, safety, and future of our country.”
Labor unions overwhelmingly endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the election. Organized labor tends to side with the left on political issues. Nevertheless, the increasing need for robust and meaningful infrastructure investments has defied partisan lines.
“Obviously we supported Hillary Clinton in the election, but there are many things that Donald Trump says that my members and union can agree,” Dean said. “Infrastructure is the main one, so we’re ready, locked, and loaded to assist the president in his endeavor.”
Trump and lawmakers face many potential obstacles on planning and implementation. One major issue is spending, as it may become difficult not to add to the federal deficit. Republicans often oppose initiatives that increase deficit spending.
“I’m skeptical that Congress is going to be so willing to buy into the broad plan, and I think it’s going to get de-scoped a little bit on the sides,” Dean said. “Our legislative department is on point and ready to move. Prior to the election, we were meeting with the speaker to find common ground regardless of the presidential outcome.”
Trump and lawmakers will debate a range of possible policies to reduce how much the plan would add to the deficit. Former-President Bill Clinton raised the federal fuel tax during his time in office. The funds originally went towards deficit reduction, but infrastructure needs like transportation were included later.
“Cars get better gas mileage today, fuel standards are better, you don’t get one dime more of fuel tax off an electric car,” Dean said. “So they have a regressive funding source, and I think the elected officials have failed to propose anything that has been real as far as what we need to do.”
Trump has also promised to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses. Economic and environmental regulations have often been blamed for stifling job growth. The Trump campaign estimated that over-regulation costs the economy $2 trillion dollars a year.
“It often takes seven to nine years through the environmental impact studies and all those things,” Dean said. “If President Trump wants to streamline those regulations and fast-track jobs and take them from concept to blueprints to delivering steel or concrete, we’re going to support those initiatives.”
Trump will be officially sworn in as president Jan. 20. Some Democrats have already expressed interest in working with the president-elect when it comes to the national infrastructure.
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